Myofascial Pain Syndrome: What Is It and What Causes It
Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) is a chronic pain disorder where trigger points cause pain in the muscle and sometimes other, unrelated parts of the body as well. The symptoms typically start to show after a muscle has been repeatedly contracting with repetitive motions. These repetitive motions actually damage and tear the muscle fibers. While most people have experienced muscle pain and soreness at one time or another, what sets this condition apart is that the pain worsens and lasts longer than six months.
Myofascial pain directly affects the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds and covers muscles and can involve either an entire muscle group, or just a single muscle. The soft tissue becomes inflamed which causes the muscle pain. Referred pain is also very commonly seen with MPS. Referred pain is when the site of the injury or the muscle strain essentially turns on that pain trigger point which in turn, can cause pain in other parts of the body.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
MSP usually consists of muscle pain with a specific tender area or trigger point. These trigger points are primarily how doctors diagnose patients with MPS. An active trigger point is an area of very extreme tenderness that lies within the skeletal muscle and is associated with regional and/or local pain. A latent trigger point is dormant, meaning it is inactive, but has the potential to become active again at any time. Latent trigger points may also cause restriction of movement or muscle weakness. In the diagnosis of MPS, physicians are able to distinguish both types of trigger points.
The pain can be described as a deep muscle ache, a tender knot in a muscle, and pain that worsens with activity. The pain is notorious for lasting longer than a normal muscle ache that can come from daily activities or exercise and can be so persistent that patients suffering from this condition may also experience trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, lack of sleep due to the pain can also lead to symptoms like fatigue, depression, and behavioral disturbances.
The treatment for MPS is a standard pain management approach. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or opioids, can be used as symptomatic management. For some patients, medications for sleep or depression may also be prescribed. Outside of medications, physical therapy and massage therapy are both recommended courses or treatment. One treatment in particular known as the stretch and spray technique actually sprays the trigger point and muscle with a type of coolant and then slowly stretches the muscle. Stretching and strengthening the muscles is not a fancy form of treatment, but is highly effective for those with MPS.
If you are suffering from constant muscle pain be sure to contact your doctor and seek the treatment that is best for you. MPS is common among patients and can be treatable.