Healing from Chronic Myofascial Pain—Support for Chronic Pain Sufferers


Described below is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain:

Treatments: Injections

This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Trigger point (TrP) injections

BOTTOM LINE: Initially helpful, but eventually became less effective and had unacceptable side effects.

Trigger point (TrP) injections are shots of pain-reducing medication (e.g., steroid and numbing medicine) injected into a TrP, which is a taut band of muscle or fascia that is painful or can radiate pain to other locations in the body. After five months of pain and no relief from drugs or physical therapy, in 2006 my orthopedic surgeon injected cortisone (a steroid) and lidocaine (a numbing medicine) into one of my particularly painful TrPs. The shot had the immediate and amazing effect of reducing my pain. For the first time in months I felt human again. But the relief only lasted a few hours. A month later, my neurosurgeon gave me a similar shot that lasted two days. It felt like he hit the dead center of the sensitive TrP. The shot hurt much more than the first one but the result was much better. I was in tears for two days because I couldn't believe how good I felt after months of such constant and debilitating pain.

Immediately after the second shot, my pain level, measured on a scale of one to ten, dropped from an eight to the one- to two-range. But the effect only lasted a couple of days. Then my pain was back up to the sevens. I was disappointed it didn't permanently reduce my pain to tolerable levels.

Four months later, my new physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) doctor diagnosed me with Myofascial Pain Syndrome and begin giving me multiple TrP injections. They also worked incredibly well, but only for a week or so at a time. I continued to get two or three TrP injections at each doctor's visit (ranging between a week and two months apart) over a period of seven months.  

Soon the effectiveness wore off and I was having side effects from the steroids (continuous menstrual period for a full month). My PM&R doctor hadn't initially mentioned that that might be a side effect, and I didn't find out until after I rushed to the gynecologist who subjected me to various unpleasant tests only to find nothing gynecologically wrong with me. Later my PM&R doctor told me steroids can disrupt a woman's menstrual cycle. 

The TrP injections were great while they lasted, and even had an overall effect of bringing down my pain from daily average pain of about eight to about five. They also helped me realize that I could feel normal again and that my body somehow had the ability not to feel pain. The shots helped me know that my body wasn't permanently damaged and helped me believe I could get better. But unfortunately, the shots didn't bring my pain down to tolerable levels. Plus, because they contained steroids, my doctor didn't advise them as a long-term solution anyway. A couple years after getting the TrP injections, I was rear-ended in my car and my doctor gave me a TrP injection with only lidocaine and no steroid, but it didn't help reduce my pain. 

For the TrP injections I got in 2006, I couldn't figure out how I could get so much relief for a short period of time and why my body couldn't stay like that. What I didn't know at the time was that my body was stuck in a near perpetual state of bracing in a primordial attempt to protect myself from unconsciously perceived danger caused by past traumas. Yes, it's really true (see Trauma & Chronic Pain tab). Apparently, the shots could reduce my pain (by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation around my TrPs and fascia) enough to temporarily override my brain signals that were telling me to be on guard, but they couldn't stop those signals completely. It turns out, I'd have to do that myself. The neuroplasticity of the brain means it is possible to alter conditioned neurological signals, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Using mind-body approaches (e.g., John F. Barnes myofascial realease [JFB-MFR] treatment therapy, reading about the mindbody, letting go), I eventually made significant progress.