The exact symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome can be different for each person. Sometimes, a person might have symptoms that show up for a while and then go away. Other times, things that didn’t cause any pain before can cause pain all of a sudden, especially if the person is already stressed.
The most common symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome are:
- Pain. Sometimes, this pain can be felt in a part of the body that has been used a lot (for instance, the back after lifting heavy things or hands after typing too much).
- Referred pain. This happens because sensitive parts of a muscle, called “trigger points,” send pain signals to unrelated parts of the body.
- Trouble sleeping. Problems with sleeping can happen because pain points can be triggered when someone moves during their sleep.
Some doctors also think that myofascial pain syndrome can lead to fibromyalgia.
Sometimes, muscle pain is normal, especially if you have been working hard or had a minor injury. However, if you have muscle pain that is worse than normal or doesn’t go away, you should talk to a doctor.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes myofascial pain syndrome, but the pain can be caused by different factors, including:
- Muscle injury. Putting muscles under too much stress for a long time can create a trigger point. For instance, one might have a part of their hand that can trigger pain in other parts of the body if the person is stressed or if they use their hands too much for a repetitive or straining motion.
- Stress. People who are very stressed are more likely to have trigger points in their muscles. Some doctors think that this happens because they clench their muscles when they are stressed, which can make them tight and easier to trigger.
If the doctor suspects myofascial pain syndrome, they might ask questions to help them understand where the pain is coming from. Some questions they might ask include:
- What symptoms do you have?
- Where is the pain the worst?
- How long have you had the symptoms?
- Does anything make the symptoms better or worse?
- Do the symptoms get better in the morning or the evening?
- Have you had any injuries in any part of the body?
The doctor may also do a physical exam to look for trigger points or tense areas in the body. They might push on the trigger points with their fingers, which can cause a small amount of pain or can make the muscle twitch.
There are many other problems that can have the same symptoms as myofascial pain syndrome, so the doctor might need to do more tests to rule out other conditions.
Many myofascial pain syndrome treatments can help reduce pain and the number of triggers or trigger points that one has. Some common treatments include:
- Medication. The doctor might prescribe some medicines that can help reduce pain and how easy it is to trigger pain in the muscles. Medicines that can help include pain relievers like ibuprofen [ay-byoo-PROH-fen] and naproxen [nah-PROCKS-en] sodium. Sometimes, the doctor may prescribe an antidepressant that can help relieve pain, like amitriptyline [am-i-TRIP-tuh-leen], or a sedative that can relax the muscles, like clonazepam [kloh-NEY-zuh-pam].
- Physical therapy, stretching, posture training, massage, and heat therapy can help relax muscles and reduce pain during a flare-up.
- Needle procedures. The doctor might inject a steroid or numbing medicine into the trigger point that is causing pain. Sometimes, just putting the needle into the muscle is enough to help lower the amount of tension.
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes myofascial pain syndrome, so they can’t always prevent it. There are some steps to take to help reduce the pain or lower the chance of getting more trigger points. These include:
- Exercise. Exercising can help reduce pain and give the person something to focus on during mild-to-moderate pain.
- Relax. Finding ways to relax, like meditating, writing in a journal, or talking to friends and family, might make it easier to better cope with pain.
- Stay healthy. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and trying to avoid stress whenever possible can help prevent flare-ups.
Myofascial [my-oh-FASH-ee-ahl] pain syndrome is a disorder that can cause pain throughout the body, especially in muscles and fascia [FASH-ee-ah]. Fascia is the thin, tough tissues that wrap around and helps protect most parts of the body, including muscles.
For those with this disorder, pain occurs when one is stressed or if a muscle has been used too much for a job or hobby. While everyone has had muscle pain in these situations, people with myofascial pain syndrome have persistent pain or knots in their muscles. This pain can last a long time and might be hard to reduce.
Sometimes, myofascial pain syndrome is confused with fibromyalgia [fahy-broh-may-AL-juh]. Both are chronic pain disorders and have some of the same symptoms. Some researchers also think that myofascial pain syndrome can turn into fibromyalgia, but they are not the same condition. Fibromyalgia has other symptoms, like tiredness, headaches, and mental fog that makes it hard to think clearly.