Myofascial Pain Syndrome – Is This Disease Linked With Fibromyalgia?

Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) refers to pain and inflammation in the soft tissues of the body. This chronic (ongoing) condition affects the connective tissue (fascia) covering the muscles. MPS can affect just a single muscle or an entire group of muscles.

Myofascial pain syndrome is a condition characterized by tenderness, muscle pain and spasms. Although fibromyalgia and MPS are similar, fibromyalgia typically involves muscle pain on both sides of the body; whereas, myofascial pain syndrome may not.

The Cause Of Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Although a single cause of MPS has not been discovered, it is believed that the pain associated with myofascial pain syndrome may develop due to a muscle injury or because of excessive strain being placed on a muscle group, particular muscle, tendon or ligament.

Other Causes Of This Condition May Include:

  • Repetitive movements.
  • Injury to the muscle fibres.
  • Lack of activity (e.g., a broken leg in a cast or an arm in a sling).

How Does Myofascial Pain Syndrome Develop?

When MPS is caused by a strain or an injury, experts believe that the site of the strain or injury causes a trigger point to develop. Once the trigger point has developed, it causes pain in other areas of the body, this circumstance is known as referred pain.

Trigger points are identified when pain results following the application of pressure to a specific area on a person’s body.

Trigger Points

When It Comes To MPS, There Are Two Kinds Of Trigger Points Used For Diagnosis:

  • Active Trigger Points – Areas of extreme tenderness typically associated with regional or local pain occurring within the skeletal muscle.
  • Latent Trigger Points – These points are dormant (inactive); however, they are located in areas that have the ability to act like a trigger point. These latent trigger points may limit movement and/or cause the muscles to become weak.

Risk Factors

There are a few underlying conditions that are believed to play a role in the onset and exacerbation of myofascial pain syndrome. These conditions include stress, depression, poor sleep patterns and a prior injury: Some believe that these conditions may cause a change in the brain’s ability to process the perception of pain.

Signs And Symptoms Of MPS

Symptoms associated with myofascial pain syndrome include localized muscle pain: The muscles that are typically affected cause upper back pain, neck pain and lower back pain. This pain usually affects one side of the body. However, if both sides are affected, one side will be worse than the other.

Other Symptoms Of MPS May Include:

  • Tenderness and spasming in areas experiencing chronic pain.
  • Tenderness in areas that are not experiencing chronic pain.
  • Poor sleep patterns.
  • A decrease* in the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) the individual experiences while asleep, which causes daytime fatigue due to a lack of restful sleep.
  • Stiffness following inactivity.
  • Increased muscle pain with activity and/or stress.
  • Depression.
  • Behavioral disturbances.
  • Fatigue.

Difficulty Sleeping is not uncommon. The symptoms associated with MPS can make it difficult to sleep. People who have this condition may find it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. Additionally, if he or she moves during the night, a trigger point may be disturbed, causing the individual to awaken.

The Possible Connection Between MPS and Fibromyalgia

Research indicates that some of the people who have MPS will eventually develop fibromyalgia, which is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain.

It is believed that individuals with fibromyalgia have a hypersensitivity to the pain signals being sent to the brain. Some physicians believe that myofascial pain syndrome is a precursor to fibromyalgia.

Diagnosing MPS

For the most part, extensive laboratory testing is of no use; instead, myofascial pain syndrome is diagnosed based on the areas where an individual is experiencing muscle pain and tenderness. There are no changes in the appearance of the areas of the body that are affected by MPS (e.g., warmth, inflammation, redness, etc.).

Diagnosing MPS

Indirect myofascial release, Charlotte Stuart doing pain reduction* procedure, Nelson, New Zealand Photo by Jaap Buijs (2009) (CC by 2.0)

Treating Myofascial Pain Syndrome

When it comes to MPS, a multifaceted approach is ideal. Treatment may include providing the individual with valuable information related to myofascial pain syndrome, utilizing stress-reduction techniques, improving* his or her sleeping patterns, rehabilitation through physical therapy, as well as implementing stretching and exercise programs.

Each patient is unique; therefore, physicians must tailor therapy programs to meet the needs of each patient.

Medications may also be used to treat* the signs and symptoms of MPS. The medications used to treat* myofascial pain syndrome are typically directed towards treating the individual’s particular signs and symptoms.

Physical Therapy Treatments:

Physical Therapy Treatments
  • Massage therapy.
  • Trigger point injections.
  • “Stretch and Spray” technique – during this treatment, the muscles and trigger points are sprayed with a coolant and the muscles are slowly stretched.

Some individuals receive a combination of trigger point injections, physical therapy and therapeutic massage.

Can Myofascial Pain Syndrome Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, MPS cannot be prevented; however, you can avoid the factors that are known to exacerbate the condition.

Reduce* The Likelihood Of Worsening The Symptoms Of Myofascial Pain Syndrome By:

  • Minimizing your stress levels.
  • Avoiding re-injury.
  • Treating depression (if applicable).
  • Maximizing the amount of optimal sleep (REM) you receive.

What Type Of Physician Treats* Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

MPS is generally treated by a primary-care physician. These physicians include general practitioners, internists as well as family medicine doctors. Other physicians who frequently treat* myofascial pain syndrome include orthopedists, rheumatologists and physiatrists.

Prognosis

The good news is that with a custom-designed treatment plan, myofascial pain syndrome can resolve itself. However, there are many individuals who experience the signs and symptoms of MPS for years. Typically, a positive patient outcome is determined by the use of a multifaceted treatment approach guided by a physician who monitors the patient’s response to the various therapies prescribed.

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Author

Expert Author : Trina Herron-McMillin (Consumer Health Digest)

With degrees in phlebotomy, laboratory assisting and medical transcription, Trina Herron-McMillinbrings to Consumer Health Digest a wealth of knowledge. In addition, her personal experiences related to the medical field, dental issuesand physical therapy techniques have given her the ability to successfully tackle a variety of topics as a freelance writer.