Myofascial pain syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic form of muscle pain. The pain of myofascial pain syndrome centers around sensitive points in your muscles called trigger points. The trigger points can be painful when touched. And the pain can spread throughout the affected muscle.
Nearly everyone experiences muscle pain from time to time that generally resolves in a few days. But people with myofascial pain syndrome have muscle pain that persists or worsens. Myofascial pain caused by trigger points has been linked to many types of pain, including headaches, jaw pain, neck pain, low back pain, pelvic pain, and arm and leg pain.
Treatment for myofascial pain syndrome can bring relief in many cases. Treatment options include physical therapy, trigger point injections or medications.
Signs and symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may include:
When to see a doctor
Sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse. These sensitive areas are called trigger points. A trigger point in a muscle can cause strain and pain throughout the muscle. When this pain persists and worsens, doctors call it myofascial pain syndrome.
Myofascial pain syndrome is caused by trigger points in your muscles. Factors that may increase your risk of muscle trigger points include:
Myofascial pain syndrome can lead to other complications over time. Complications may include:
Preparing for your appointment
Because many of the signs and symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome are similar to various other disorders, you may see several doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Your family physician may refer you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
What you can do
For myofascial pain syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment if you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Questions your doctor might ask include:
Tests and diagnosis
In order to determine the cause of your pain, your doctor will ask you questions about your signs and symptoms. The area where you're feeling pain may be examined. During the physical exam, your doctor may:
Muscle pain has many possible causes. Your doctor may recommend other tests and procedures to rule out other causes of muscle pain before diagnosing myofascial pain syndrome.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for myofascial pain syndrome typically includes physical therapy, trigger point injections or medications. No conclusive evidence supports using one therapy over another. Discuss your options and treatment preferences with your doctor. You may need to try more than one approach to find pain relief.
Trigger point injections
Your doctor may inject a small amount of a numbing medication, such as an anesthetic, each time the needle is inserted. Corticosteroid medications also may be used to relieve pain around the trigger point.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Take care of yourself if you have myofascial pain syndrome. Self-care measures to keep your body healthy may make it easier for you to concentrate on coping with your pain. Try to:
You may be interested in trying complementary and alternative medicine if your pain isn't controlled with conventional treatments. Discuss the options with your doctor. Though you may be reluctant to bring up herbs, supplements or other complementary therapies when talking with your doctor, you may be surprised to find that many doctors are becoming more willing to discuss these treatments.
Discuss any complementary and alternative treatments you're considering with your doctor. Some treatments may interfere with your medications.
Many complementary and alternative treatments are touted as good options for controlling chronic pain. But most claims aren't supported with studies that show any benefit.
When administered by a reputable practitioner using sterile needles, acupuncture can be safe. Ask your doctor for names of certified practitioners in your area. Acupuncture isn't safe if you have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners.
Coping and support
Having a chronic pain condition such as myofascial pain syndrome can be frustrating. Treatment may be only moderately successful for you. Family, friends and co-workers may misunderstand your condition. In addition to educating yourself about myofascial pain syndrome, you may find it helpful to provide your family, friends and co-workers with information.
It's also helpful to know that you're not alone. Organizations such as the Arthritis Foundation and the American Chronic Pain Association provide educational classes and support groups. These groups can often provide a level of help and advice that you might not find anywhere else. They can also help put you in touch with others who have had similar experiences and can understand what you're going through.
Last Updated: 2009-12-03
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