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Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome (also called chronic myofascial pain) is a condition in which connective tissue called fascia tightens and contracts. This is usually from an injury or overuse (repetitive motion).

At the spot where the injury occurs, known as a trigger point, you may feel a tender knot or tight band. When pressure — even light pressure — is applied to a trigger point, it usually causes pain, not only in that area, but possibly in other parts of the body as well.

Trigger point causes

Trigger points can develop due to the following:

  • Traumatic injuries
  • Injured or herniated discs
  • Heavy lifting or using incorrect lifting technique
  • Overuse of muscles, such as in sports or the workplace
  • Stress and tension (some people clench their muscles when stressed, and this repeated strain can make the muscles more vulnerable to trigger points)

Myofascial pain syndrome: what you should know

  • Although both are chronic pain syndromes involving trigger points, myofascial pain is not the same as fibromyalgia. People may have both conditions at the same time, however. And some studies suggest that myofascial pain may ultimately develop into fibromyalgia in some people.
  • Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation and therapeutic massage can help prevent the tightness and contractions that lead to trigger points, reducing your risk of developing myofascial pain syndrome.
  • Many people with myofascial pain syndrome have sleep problems — either they cannot find a comfortable position, have trouble falling asleep or are awakened by the pain. Sleep is a vital part of your health and well-being, so talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these problems.

How can I get help for myofascial pain syndrome?

Talk to your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Deep, aching pain in a muscle
  • Muscle pain that cannot be relieved with self-care (rest, massage and pain relievers) and that is getting worse
  • A tender knot or tight band in a muscle that is not going away
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night due to pain

Occasional, temporary muscle pain is nothing to worry about. Talk to your doctor if the pain continues for more than a few months or feels like it is getting worse.

Care for myofascial pain syndrome at Rush

If you are diagnosed with myofascial pain syndrome, you may be referred to a specialist at Rush for treatment. There are many different treatment approaches:

  • Medications, including pain relievers, antidepressants and sedatives
  • Trigger point injections, which have proven effective at relieving muscle spasms and relaxing muscles
  • Physical therapy, which may involve the following:
    • Stretches, such as myofascial release, a highly specialized technique that helps relieve tightness in the injured fascia
    • Electrical stimulation
    • Massage
    • Ultrasound
  • Acupuncture, which some studies suggest can help relieve myofascial pain syndrome
  • Other complementary therapies, such as herbs, supplements and relaxation techniques

Your doctor will discuss all of your options with you. Depending on your needs, you may be prescribed a combination of therapies.

Why choose Rush for myofascial pain syndrome care?

  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists at Rush have decades of expertise treating myofascial pain and other chronic pain syndromes. They offer a full range of treatments to help you regain function, relieve your pain and restore your quality of life.

Departments and programs that treat this condition