When the Pain Goes Beyond a Strained Muscle—Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)

Almost everyone has experienced the pain of a strained muscle due to the muscle tension of activity. The discomfort usually lasts a short time and then subsides. However, if that pain persists, or you experience increased muscular pain or pain that becomes chronic, the problem may be myofascial pain syndrome (MPS).

Myofascial pain syndrome is pressure on sensitive points in your muscles (trigger points), and causes what is called referred pain. Referred pain is pain in seemingly unrelated parts of your body rather than at the point of origin.

Some researchers use the name “chronic myofascial pain” (CMP) instead of myofascial pain syndrome because of evidence it’s a disease, not a syndrome. (A “syndrome” is a set of symptoms without a known cause.)

Symptoms of MPS include poor sleep due to pain, fatigue, a tender knot in a muscle(s) and stiffness. Affected muscles can cause neck and back pain, generally affecting one side of the body or one side much more than the other.

The exact cause of myofascial pain syndrome is unknown. Nevertheless, prior injury, poor sleep patterns, stressful life situations, and depression are common underlying conditions that may play a role in inciting and exacerbating myofascial pain syndrome. MPS also typically occurs after a muscle has been contracted repetitively, or excessive strain is placed on a muscle group, ligament or tendon. Lack of activity can also cause MPS (such as an immobilized limb in a cast). MPS can be the result of repetitive motions performed in work or recreational activities, or by stress-related muscle tension. It is speculated that these physical and emotional patterns may lead to a change in the brain’s ability to properly process pain perception.

MPS is often linked to fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). The difference between the two is that while MPS exhibits a localized pain, the pain in FMS is diffused. Fatigue is a common feature of FMS, but not so with MPS. In addition, while MPS seems to resolve quite well with treatment, FMS exhibits symptoms of being chronic in the long run. Another difference between the two syndromes is that women are more susceptible than men to having FMS. However, though fibromyalgia syndrome and myofascial pain syndrome are different conditions, many physicians put them together because generally patients will display symptoms of both diseases.

At The Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders, we are experienced and sensitive to the difficulties of those living with MPS. For those who suspect they may suffer from this condition, we will conduct a thorough physical exam and medical history. This includes a review of your symptoms and a test of range of motion and examination of trigger points. Treatment options for myofascial pain syndrome often involve a multi-faceted approach with the use of various therapies. Our therapies range from medications to injections, and other treatment suggestions and recommendations are potentially provided.