Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a specific type of pain in the muscles and soft tissue. The pain is associated with trigger points, small areas of tight muscle fibers. These points are extra sensitive to pressure.
The exact cause of myofascial pain syndrome is not clearly understood. It is believed that excessive strain or trauma to a muscle, ligament, or tendon may cause a trigger point to develop. The trigger point can remain even after the injury or strain has healed.
Some factors that may be associated with the development of trigger points include:
Myofascial pain is more common in women and older adults.
Factors that may increase your chances of getting myofascial pain syndrome include:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying special attention to muscles that are painful. The doctor will look for specific areas that are very sensitive. The diagnosis is often made based on history of symptoms and presence of trigger point.
An electromyography may be done to test the electrical activity of the muscles. It may help to rule out other causes of muscle pain or find what may be creating the trigger points.
Treatment will start by identifying what may be contributing or worsening the pain. Your doctor or a physical therapist will use this information to help build a treatment plan.
Muscle stretching and strengthening exercises will be used to decrease tension of trigger points.
Other steps that may help decrease trigger points include:
Since the cause of myofascial pain syndrome is not clear, there are no direct preventative steps. Avoiding excess stress on muscles may help prevent the development of trigger points.
Ask about ergonomic support in your workplace. Proper ergonomics can help reduce stress, especially in tasks with repetitive motion. Some examples of ergonomics include learning correct lifting techniques, improving your posture, and sitting correctly.
American Physical Therapy Association
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Myofascial pain. NYU Langone Medical Center website. Available at: http://pain-medicine.med.nyu.edu/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/myofascial-pain. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Myofascial pain syndrome: Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Myofascial_Pain_Syndrome. Updated July 7, 2014. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Myofascial pain syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114093/Myofascial-pain-syndrome. Updated July 29, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Myofascial pain syndrome. StopPain.org—Beth Israel Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.stoppain.org/pain_medicine/content/chronicpain/myofascial.asp. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.