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APM Spine & Sports Physicians

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

What is myofascial pain syndrome?

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is the medical term used to describe muscle pain. This chronic musculoskeletal condition affects the fascia—connective tissue that covers the muscles, organs, bone and nerves. A characteristic of MPS is the development of trigger points—hypersensitive bands or knots of muscle that, when pressed, cause referred pain.

Trigger points can be latent or acute. Acute trigger points are recently activated. Latent trigger points are ever-present and can be triggered into active points. Reasons for this activation include, but are not limited to, repetitive poor posture, muscle imbalances, gait changes, and accidents. Latent trigger points generally are not problematic, but will become so once they are activated.

Once trigger points become active, treatment is important to get them resolved. Pain can be very intense with active trigger points, and they will trigger spasms in the muscles, which in turn will develop a cycle of pain that can become debilitating if intervention is not sought. The spasms will then cause more pain; the pain will cause more spasms and eventually affect movement, posture, and quality of life.

What causes MPS?

There are many causes. The most common are:

  • Injury or trauma involving muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Repetitive motion that results in prolonged muscle stress
  • Pinched nerves
  • Becoming chilled (sitting in front of an air conditioner or in a draft)
  • Fatigue
  • Inactivity, such as having a leg in a cast
  • Hormonal changes

How is myofascial pain treated?

An accurate diagnosis is critical to successful treatment. Physical therapy is key to breaking up trigger points and relieving muscle soreness. Stretching helps relax the muscles and reduce painful spasms.

The techniques we draw upon include:

  • Trigger point therapy
  • Spraying the muscle with a coolant before the therapist stretches it back to its normal length
  • Intensive physical therapy to break up the trigger point and relieve soreness
  • Moist heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation to restore the muscle to normal length
  • Specialized massage
  • Trigger point injections of anesthetic for difficult cases

How can patients facilitate their recovery?

A comprehensive and consistent home exercise program is critical to reducing your pain. Our physical therapists will provide you with a plan that is geared to your specific condition and will watch you perform each exercise to make sure you are doing it properly.