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Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is a disorder of the muscles that leads to painful symptoms over an extended period of time. The muscle pain can be local to the affected area or referred to other areas of the body. The condition is sometimes characterized by a dull feeling of discomfort in the muscles, but severe cases can be excruciatingly intense. The pain stems from tense and sore muscle areas called trigger points. These trigger points are also referred to as knots and are sometimes visible above the skin. Muscles that are affected by trigger points are weakened and have shortened ranges of motion. The pain is sometimes severe enough to lead to muscle spasms and cramps.

Woman with Muscle Pain

Causes Of Myofascial Pain

Myofascial pain syndrome results from many factors, the most important being repetitive stress. When a muscle contracts repeatedly over a long period of time, areas of the muscle form taut bands that are sensitive to the touch. These bands form the trigger points that cause the muscle pain, both local and referred. Jobs and activities that require repetitive movements are a major contributor to this condition. Certain mechanical and ergonomic factors can also increase the risk of myofascial pain. Examples include poor posture, legs of different lengths, and long periods of time spent sitting at a desk. Myofascial pain is exacerbated by anxiety and depression, both of which contribute to muscle tension.

Prevalence And Incidence

Myofascial pain syndrome is equally prevalent among men and women and is one of the more common pain conditions. It affects around 21 percent of patients at general medical clinics and as much as 90 percent of patients at specialized pain treatment centers. The incidence of myofascial pain syndrome and the associated trigger points is between 30 and 85 percent among patients at pain clinics.

Muscle Pain

Treatment Options

Myofascial pain syndrome does not go away without treatment. It can often be managed or eliminated for a long period of time through trigger point injection therapy. Trigger point injections numb the affected muscles with mixtures of lidocaine and various other anesthetics. The reduction in pain helps to reduce muscle spasms and allows the muscles to be fully stretched. Massage therapy can also be used for short-term relief from muscle pain.