Myofascial pain syndrome
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.
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 a stimulus, such as pressure, that sets off trigger points in your muscles. Factors that may increase your risk of muscle trigger points include:
Complications associated with myofascial pain syndrome 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.
What you can do
For myofascial pain syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
Questions your doctor might ask include:
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor may apply gentle finger pressure to the painful area, feeling for tense areas. Certain ways of pressing on (palpating) the trigger point can elicit specific responses. For instance, you may experience a muscle twitch.
Muscle pain has many possible causes. Your doctor may recommend other tests and procedures to rule out other causes of muscle pain.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for myofascial pain syndrome typically includes medications, trigger point injections or physical therapy. 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.
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. It may help to talk to a counselor about the challenges you're facing. Online or in-person support groups also can be helpful by connecting you with people who understand what you're going through.
Last Updated: 2012-01-05
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