In layman’s terms, myofacial pain syndrome is the pain and inflammation of the body’s soft tissues. The term comes from the fact that the fascia, the connective tissues covering the muscles, is the most affected part with the pain either experienced in a single muscle or in an entire group of muscles. This is a chronic pain disorder wherein pressure on the trigger points leads to pain in other parts of the body, which is known as referred pain. In other words, the pain experienced in one part of the body is not where the pain was generated in the first place.
It must be emphasized that muscle tension pain is different from myofacial pain mainly because of the chronic nature of the latter. In many cases of myofacial pain, the pain can worsen when left untreated but muscle tension pain can often resolve sans treatment.
Myofacial pain syndrome can develop from excessive stress placed on the specific muscle or muscle group as well as the related tendons and ligaments. It can also be the result of muscle injury that strained the muscles far beyond their normal capacities.
Other causes of the syndrome are:
- Injury to the intervertebral disc (the cartilaginous joint lying between adjacent vertebrae and allowing for slight movements in the vertebrae while also holding the vertebrae together)
- General fatigue, which is characterized by a nearly constant state of weariness leading to diminished physical and mental energy
- Lack of activity in the part of the body such as a broken arm in a plaster cast
- Repetitive motions
- Medical conditions like stomach irritation and heart attack
The identification of the cause behind your case of myofacial pain syndrome is essential in the development of an effective treatment plan. Be ready for your medical consultation by listing down your specific symptoms including severity, frequency and duration as well as your medical history.
The symptoms involved in the syndrome include muscle pain in the trigger points, said pain of which is made worse by stress and physical activity. The pain can be localized or spread to the surrounding areas although referred pain in seemingly unrelated areas is also common.
You may also experience unusual behavior, fatigue and depression along with the following symptoms of myofacial pain syndrome:
- Pain that worsens or persists
- Deep, aching pain in the affected muscle
- Tender knots in the muscle
- Difficulty in sleeping because of the pain
As previously mentioned, you may confuse muscle tension pain with myofacial pain. Tip: When your muscle pain persists or worsens even with massage, rest and other self-help measures, then you should see your doctor for a definitive diagnosis because it may not be muscle tension pain.
Fortunately, the syndrome can be treated via:
- Medications including pain relievers (i.e., ibuprofen) and antidepressants to relieve pain as well as sedatives to relax the muscles.
- Physical therapy including stretching exercises, massage of the affected areas, application of heat for pain relief, and ultrasound waves to promote blood circulation.
- Injections of steroid or a numbing agent
Self-help measures are also a must. These include eating a healthy diet, getting sufficient hours of sleep, adopting an effective stress management program, and exercising. In the end, you must take responsibility for your recovery from myofacial pain syndrome.