What Is Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

MPS is a chronic condition resulting in muscle pain and soreness in the musculoskeletal system and throughout the soft tissue of the body. It is named as such due to how it affects the body’s fascia, a connective matrix of tissue covering the muscles. 

MPS can affect one muscle or an entire muscle group. This condition also results in “referred pain”, meaning that one who is suffering from MPS may experience pain in an area other than the area that’s actually affected. It is believed that MPS creates “trigger points” that cause pain to arise in other, seemingly unrelated parts of the body.

Symptoms

  • Muscle pain and soreness activated by trigger points (sometimes resulting from pressure, sometimes spontaneously)
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Poor posture

There are two kinds of trigger points involved with MPS, active and latent.

  • Active trigger points – These are intensely sensitive areas often located in the skeletal muscle.
  • Latent trigger points – These are dormant areas that can turn into trigger points. They can limit mobility and cause weakness in the muscle.

Causes

Muscle injury is the most common cause of MPS. This usually results from trauma or from strain on certain muscles or muscle groups. This can also occur through repetitive motion or lack of activity.

Diagnosis

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Imaging and lab tests are unable to diagnose MPS. Instead, doctors will typically employ a number of the following diagnostic methods:

  • A physical exam in which the physician feels for trigger points, tight and/or twitching muscles, and problems in posture
  • Questions regarding the level and consistency of pain, recent physically traumatic experiences that may have happened, recent instances of muscle strains, etc
  • Imaging in order to rule out other conditions

Myofascial Pain Syndrome Vs. Fibromyalgia

These two conditions are typically confused with one another because they share so many symptoms. Fibromyalgia is also a problem of the musculoskeletal system that causes pain, soreness, and stiffness throughout the body. Little is officially known about fibromyalgia, but it differs from MPS in the following ways:

  • There are more trigger points; MPS has fewer trigger points
  • The musculoskeletal pain is more general; MPS pain is localized
  • Fibromyalgia doesn’t typically involve referred pain
  • Fibromyalgia can cause burning, tingling, and prickling sensations, as well as a sense of swelling

Treatment

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Pain doctors can employ a number of different treatments, mainly focusing on the trigger points. These include:

  • Trigger point injection – TPI involves a professional pain doctor inserting a small needle into the trigger point and injecting it with a local anesthetic.
  • Physical therapy – This can include spraying a muscle and/or trigger point with a cooling solution, followed by slow stretching.
  • Massage therapy

Medications can also be used for treating MPS. These usually include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
  • Over-the-counter painkillers
  • Opioids
  • Sleep medication like ambien

If you believe you are experiencing myofascial pain syndrome, contact a local pain management clinic. Diagnosing the problem is the first step towards treating it and getting you back to living life normally.

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