Myofascial pain syndrome, sometimes called chronic myofascial pain or CMP, is a chronic pain condition. Myofascial pain syndrome is a painful disorder affecting the muscles and the tissues that surround the muscles. When myofascial pain syndrome is present, it can affect a group of muscles or a single muscle.
A person with myofascial pain syndrome experiences pain and sensitive trigger points within the muscles. These trigger points can lead to the development of pain in other areas of the body. This is known as referred pain. Myofascial pain disorder usually occurs in muscles that have been subjected to repetitive use or motion. The pain associated with myofascial pain syndrome is not like that of typical muscle soreness as it is chronic and tends to worsen over time.
The most common symptom of myofascial pain syndrome is trigger point referred pain. It is believed that myofascial pain syndrome is a neuromuscular problem that affects muscles and their surrounding tissue, called fascia, directly. These trigger point areas may be chronically sore and cause pain and loss of use; or they may be only responsive to pressure or overuse. Symptoms associated with myofascial pain syndrome include:
- Trigger points
- Pain in muscles
- Deep ache in muscles
- Tender points or knots in muscle
- Muscle stiffness
- Tingling in muscles
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of sleep due to chronic pain
The exact cause of myofascial pain syndrome is not clear, though many doctors believe the pain is associated with overuse of the muscle or muscle group. Overworked muscles may form tender spots or trigger points thus causing a chronic pain disorder. Other possible causes of myofascial pain disorder include:
- Having one leg longer than the other
- Poor posture
- Overuse of muscle or muscle group
- Improper exercise techniques
- Over-performing work activities
It is believed that myofascial pain syndrome begins with some kind of pressure or stimuli that activates tender trigger points in the muscles. Certain factors may increase your chances of developing such trigger points. Risk factors associated with myofascial pain syndrome include:
- Injury to the muscles. Severe muscle injury or repetitive stress to the same muscle may cause tender points to form. An area within a continually strained muscle can develop into a trigger point.
- Repetitive muscle use and motion.
- Poor posture can put undue stress on muscles or muscle groups.
- People who suffer with anxiety or stress. It is thought that such people often clench their muscles in response to feelings of anxiety or stress and this behavior may lead to the development of trigger points.
The symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may mimic those of other illnesses or disorders, so it may take time and many doctors to properly diagnose myofascial pain syndrome. You may be subjected to a series of diagnostic tools or tests including:
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Trigger point identification (The doctor will apply pressure to various trigger point sights to illicit a response)
- Muscle strength evaluation
- Range of motion testing
- Blood tests to check for vitamin deficiency and hypothyroidism
It may be difficult to find the most effective treatment to control the pain of myofascial pain syndrome. Treatment of myofascial pain syndrome may include medications, physical therapy and trigger site injections. It may be necessary to use a combination of options to get optimum results. Medications may include:
- Pain medication ranging from common over the counter remedies to stronger prescription pain relievers. Prescription pain medication may be in the form of pills or patches to be worn directly on the skin.
- Antidepressants may help to relieve pain and also help with sleep difficulties.
- Sedatives can help to relax muscles but must be used with caution as they may cause drowsiness or be habit forming.
Physical therapy may also be an effective way to treat the symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome. Physical therapy procedures may include:
- Stretching exercises.
- Massage applied to affected areas.
- Heat applied to affective areas to relax muscles and relive pain.
- Ultrasound therapies to increase blood flow and create warmth and promote healing.
Other treatment methods include:
- Trigger point injections of numbing solution or steroids to relieve pain.
- Dry needle therapy, in which a needle is injected without any medication. Just the needle prick alone may help to break up tense areas surrounding the trigger points.
If you suffer from myofascial pain syndrome you may be able to cope with the pain and discomfort by employing some home care remedies. Home care remedies that may be useful in treating myofascial pain syndrome include:
- Gentle exercise may help to cope with pain. Consult your doctor for a list of suitable exercises.
- Try to find ways to remain relaxed. Try meditating, journaling or simply sharing with friends.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Get adequate amounts of sleep.
If you talk with your doctor he may recommend alternative treatments to myofascial pain syndrome. There are some herbal supplements that may help relieve some symptoms and complimentary procedures such as acupuncture may be effective. Alternative treatments and complimentary medicine are not meant to replace any current treatments you may be undergoing, but may provide additional relief. Consult your doctor before beginning any herbs or supplements as they may interfere with your prescribed medications.
Living with a chronic painful condition such as myofascial pain syndrome can be difficult to deal with. It may be helpful to find a support group either online or at meetings where you can discuss your condition with others who have been diagnosed. It may also be helpful to seek out professional counseling or talk therapy if you are having a difficult time with your diagnosis and pain management.