Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a fancy way to describe chronic pain almost anywhere in the body. Fascia is actually able to contract because it has muscle machinery, so myofascial pain refers to pain and inflammation in the body’s soft (non-bone and including organ) tissues. Specifically, MPS affects the connective tissues that cover the muscles, bones, and organs, called fascia. Fascia is the elastic connective tissue that allow your muscles to contract, flex and relax. MPS can affect fascia on one muscle or a group of muscles. Often times, myofascial pain syndrome is caused by repetitive use injuries like tennis elbow or De Quervain’s syndrome. There are trigger points that bring on the pain, but sometimes the pain is referred, meaning the area where you feel the pain is not actually the area that is the source of the pain. Myofascial pain syndrome is really common, and is most of the pain, numbness, tingling, burning, aching, cramping, stabbing, etc., we feel in our bodies.
Trigger points can be identified by pain that results when pressure is applied to an area of a person’s body. It’s basically where the fascia has kinked or seized up. In the diagnosis of myofascial pain syndrome, four types of trigger points can be distinguished:
- Active trigger points: These trigger points are super sensitive points in muscle and/or bone that cause localized or regional pain.
- Latent trigger points: These can act like trigger points but aren’t hypersensitive the way active trigger point are. However, they can cause symptoms like limited movement of the affected body part and/or muscle weakness.
- Secondary trigger points: Areas that are hypersensitive, just like active trigger points, but are only activated as a result of another trigger point first being activated.
- Satellite trigger points: These overlap with regions affected by primary trigger points, so they’re difficult to identify without knowing the primary trigger point first. This is a theoretical consideration to help understand how pain might spread over time.
Symptoms of Myofascial Pain Syndrome
The interesting thing about myofascial pain is that the symptoms are often mistaken as other syndromes. For instance, someone diagnosed with cluster headaches or TMJ likely has damage or seized-up fascia. Other symptoms include muscle tenderness, a noticeable and sensitive knot in a muscle, throbbing pain, limited movement and muscle weakness.
Release & Treatment
Treatments for myofascial pain syndrome include trigger point injection treatments, deep tissue and muscle massage (called myofascial release therapy), and physical therapy. The great thing about myofascial release is that it can ease the symptoms of countless chronic pain issues. For instance, piriformis syndrome, a painful condition of the piriformis muscle, can be extremely difficult to effectively remedy because of how deep-set the piriformis muscle is. Myofascial release therapy can relieve the seizing-up of the piriformis muscle and lessen symptoms of pain, limited movement and foot-drop. Dr. Blatman has over 30 years of experience in treating conditions of the fascia, and intimately understands the intricacies of myofascial pain: how it presents, how it refers, how each person’s experience differs, and which treatments are right for different people and different types of myofascial pain.