What is myofascial pain syndrome?
Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder. In myofascial pain syndrome, pressure on sensitive points in your muscles (trigger points) causes pain in seemingly unrelated parts of your body. This is called referred pain.
Myofascial pain syndrome typically occurs after a muscle has been contracted repetitively. This can be caused by repetitive motions used in jobs or hobbies or by stress-related muscle tension.
While nearly everyone has experienced muscle tension pain, the discomfort associated with myofascial pain syndrome persists or worsens. Treatment options for myofascial pain syndrome include physical therapy and trigger point injections. Pain medications and relaxation techniques also can help.
How common is myofascial pain syndrome?
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a common musculoskeletal disorder. It has become a major cause of time lost from work, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars from the economy. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome?
The common symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome are:
- Deep, aching pain in a muscle
- Pain that persists or worsens
- A tender knot in a muscle
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes myofascial pain syndrome?
Myofascial pain may develop from a muscle injury or from excessive strain on a particular muscle or muscle group, ligament or tendon. Other causes include:
- Injury to muscle fibers
- Repetitive motions
- Lack of activity (such as having a broken arm in a sling)
What increases my risk for myofascial pain syndrome?
There are many risk factors for myofascial pain syndrome, such as:
- Muscle injury. An acute muscle injury or continual muscle stress may lead to the development of trigger points. For example, a spot within or near a strained muscle may become a trigger point. Repetitive motions and poor posture also may increase your risk.
- Stress and anxiety. People who frequently experience stress and anxiety may be more likely to develop trigger points in their muscles. One theory holds that these people may be more likely to clench their muscles, a form of repeated strain that leaves muscles susceptible to trigger points.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is myofascial pain syndrome diagnosed?
Trigger points can be identified by pain that results when pressure is applied to a specific area of a person’s body. In the diagnosis of myofascial pain syndrome, two types of trigger points can be distinguished:
- An active trigger point is an area of extreme tenderness that usually lies within the skeletal muscle and which is associated with a local or regional pain.
- A latent trigger point is a dormant (inactive) area that has the potential to act like a trigger point. It may cause muscle weakness or restriction of movement.
How is myofascial pain syndrome treated?
Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen or opioids may be used to treat myofascial pain. Medications for sleep, depression or muscle spasm are sometimes used, as well. Non-drug treatments may include:
- Physical therapy
- “Stretch and spray” technique: This treatment involves spraying the muscle and trigger point with a coolant and then slowly stretching the muscle.
- Massage therapy
- Trigger point injection
In some chronic cases of myofascial pain, combinations of physical therapy, trigger point injections, and massage are needed.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage myofascial pain syndrome?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with myofascial pain syndrome:
- Gentle exercise can help you cope better with pain. When your pain allows, get moving. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about appropriate exercises.
- If you’re stressed and tense, you may experience more pain. Find ways to relax. Meditating, writing in a journal or talking with friends can all be helpful.
- Take care of your body. Eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. Get enough sleep so that you wake rested. Take care of your body so that you can put your energy toward coping with your pain.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
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