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Myofacial Pain - How To Diagnose It?

Written and reviewed by
Clinical Fellowship In Pain Management, MD - Internal Medicine, Master Of Public Health (MPH), MBBS
Pain Management Specialist, Hyderabad  •  22 years experience
Myofacial Pain - How To Diagnose It?

Myofascial pain syndrome or MPS refers to the soft tissue and muscle pain that is often accompanied by inflammation. This chronic condition affects the fascia, which is the connective tissue covering the muscles. MPS is also called referred pain.

Symptoms of Myofascial Pain Syndrome

The symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome are all related to pain:

  • Excruciating pain in the muscles

  • Persistent pain that worsens occasionally

  • Knotty muscles

  • Sleep disturbances due to the pain

  • Difficulty at work or any performance due to the pain

The pain usually originates at a point and spreads to the entire muscle group and surrounding muscle groups, depending on the intensity of the pain. Allowing the pain to stay without treatment might worsen symptoms.

The symptoms give way to sleep disorders and sometimes, Fibromyalgia, that will worsen the symptoms.

Causes of Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain usually occurs due to some kind of injury. It can be strenuous exercise or sports routine, or an injury from an accident. A tendon, ligament, or muscle group injured earlier can develop symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome. Other specific causes include:

  • General fatigue

  • Stomach irritation

  • Heart attack is a risk factor

  • Repetitive Motions

  • Lack of movement of a certain body part

  • Intervertebral disk injury

  • Stress and anxiety are the causes that don’t even need a preexisting physical injury to cause referred pain. But if MPS already exists, stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can worsen the symptoms.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask questions about the injury (if any), the mental health condition, the lifestyle or work routine, and about the symptoms and triggers. The doctor will apply pressure on the pain regions to determine the type of pain. It can be any of the following:

  • Active trigger point

  • Dormant trigger point

  • Secondary trigger point

  • Satellite myofascial point

Treatment of Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Treatment of MPS involves a combination of medication, injections at the trigger points, and physical therapy. The doctor will decide which of the three treatment pathways, or which combination is best fitted for the case.

  • Medication: Usually there are three types of medication for referred pain. One is pain relievers containing Ibuprofen or Naproxen Sodium. Some need to be orally consumed and some need to be applied on the skin at the trigger point. The second option for medication includes antidepressants which might be helpful if the pain is chronic and worsens with depression. The third option is sedatives like Clonazepam that helps with stress and insomnia to alleviate the pain symptoms.

  • Therapy: A certified physical therapist will know suitable stretching/massage/posture training exercises to alleviate the symptoms over time. Heat and ultrasound can also be used in therapy to increase blood circulation and promote muscle healing.

  • Needle procedures: Trigger point steroid injection and acupuncture can help alleviate symptoms of MPS.

The symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome take time to reduce. With continued treatment, moderate exercise, some caution to avoid further injuries, and maintenance of healthy posture at all times, even chronic pain can be cured.

It is always advisable to consult a doctor as soon as a person notices any symptoms.



 

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