Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) refers to pain and presumed inflammation in the body's soft tissues or muscles. Myofascial pain is a chronic, painful condition that affects the fascia (connective tissue that covers the muscles). Myofascial pain syndrome might involve either a single muscle or a muscle group. In some cases, the area where a person experiences the pain might not be where the myofascial pain generator is located. Experts believe that the actual site of the injury or the strain prompts the development of a trigger point that, in turn, causes pain in other areas. This situation is known as referred pain.
Myofascial pain might develop from a muscle injury or from excessive strain on a particular muscle or muscle group, ligament, or tendon. Other causes include:
Myofascial pain symptoms usually involve muscle pain with specific "trigger" or "tender" points. The pain can be made worse with activity or stress. In addition to the local or regional pain associated with myofascial pain syndrome, people with the disorder also can suffer from depression, fatigue, and behavioral disturbances.
The recognition of this syndrome requires a precise understanding of the body's trigger points. Trigger points can be identified by pain that results when pressure is applied to an area of the patient's body. In the diagnosis of myofascial pain syndrome, four types of trigger points can be distinguished:
Physical therapy methods are considered the best treatments for myofascial pain syndrome. Other treatments include a "stretch and spray" technique, in which the muscle with the trigger point is sprayed along its length with a coolant, then slowly stretched. Massage therapy is another treatment, as is trigger point injection. In the latter form of therapy, anesthesia is injected directly into the trigger point of the patient.
In some chronic cases of myofascial pain, combinations of physical therapy, trigger point injections, and massage are needed. In select cases, medicine is used to treat any co-morbid (existing simultaneously) conditions, such as insomnia and depression. A case can be made for using the older tricyclic antidepressants and some of the newer antidepressants.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 07/07/2014