Myofascial Pain Syndrome: More Than Just Muscle Pain

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial Pain Syndrome, also referred to as Chronic Myofascial Pain (CMP), is a condition that affects the muscles and the sheath of tissue, or fascia, that surrounds them.

CMP can affect one muscle, or a group of muscles, making each case unique and with its different challenges.

Although many people experience muscle pain or discomfort throughout their daily lives, the pain associated with CMP is unique to certain trigger points throughout the body.

This is called referred pain and is both uncomfortable and debilitating for those who may experience it. Treatment for this ailment can be a lengthy process, as there is no one cure for the condition.

However, with the right combination of treatments, an individual will be able to manage their chronic pain and continue on in their daily routine.

So, What’s the Difference Between CMP and Fibromyalgia?

When many people begin to feel pain in specific areas of their muscle, they often believe that the culprit may be Fibromyalgia.

Although CMP and Fibromyalgia share many of the same symptoms, they are inherently different and involve different root causes.

Both conditions are characterized by the trigger points, or tender points, that can be felt in different areas of the body.

However, it is important to note that CMP, in contrast to Fibromyalgia, involves issues with the muscle itself whereas Fibromyalgia deals with the way in which the brain processes pain.

Fibromyalgia also has more widespread symptoms than does CMP, helping to determine which condition is the source for the muscle pain and other discomfort.

Go to the Source: Causes of Chronic Myofascial Pain

Unfortunately, there is no consensus as to what causes CMP and its associated symptoms.

Throughout the years, however, researchers have examined commonalities found between different patients that have been diagnosed with the ailment, shedding some light as to the etiology of the condition.

One perceived cause of CMP has to do with anatomy and use. Many people have either one arm or one leg that is shorter than the other.

For those who have this condition in an extreme sense, overuse or incorrect use can put a strain on different muscles, leading to the onset of CMP.

Stress, poor posture and performing activities with poor technique can also encourage the development of CMP.

This is because both stress and poor technique places excessive strain on the muscles, effectively encouraging the chronic pain associated with this condition should the activity continue.

In addition to these physical factors, cognitive implications can also influence the onset of the ailment.

This is especially true with regard to the correlation of anxiety and depression with stress, all of which can all lead to increased muscle tension.

The Development of Trigger Points

As the most prominent feature of the disorder, trigger points are often a topic many patients are interested in.

Because they develop over time, the question in most people’s minds is exactly what can be held responsible for their production.

Although there is no definitive answer to this question, there are suggestions as to what may encourage the production of trigger points.

Trauma and inflammatory conditions are among the most common reasons for CMP development.

Inflammation predisposes the body to muscle strain and other complications, and direct trauma results in inflammation. This creates a cycle of muscle strain that heightens the chances of developing CMP.

Many of the most frequent factors that generate trigger points are related to lifestyle choices. Use of tobacco, nutritional deficiencies, obesity, excessive, or too infrequent, amounts of exercise and intense cooling of body areas, such as through air conditioning, are just some of the lifestyle choices that can lead to the development of CMP.

Additionally, fatigue, emotional stress and hormonal changes can also encourage the onset of CMP, making it imperative that those experiencing dramatic changes in their lives seek the necessary help to lessen the severity of these factors.

Signs and Symptoms of Myofascial Pain Syndrome

CMP is defined by its involvement of trigger points in the frequency and severity of symptoms.

The most common symptoms of Myofascial Pain Syndrome typically includes deep, aching pains in muscles that may persist or worsen over time, tender knots in the muscles and difficulty sleeping due to the pain being experienced.

The amount of pain being felt is somewhat dependent on the trigger points themselves, as they may be either active or latent.

An active trigger point will always cause pain and soreness, limiting the usefulness of a muscle in performing daily tasks.

In contrast, latent trigger points do not cause pain constantly. Instead, they cause pain only when the area is touched or when the muscle is strained or fatigued.

There are other associated symptoms of CMP as well. They are commonly related to the overwhelming muscle pain that can include muscle weakness, tingling and stiffness.

This pain can also interfere with sleep, causing excessive stress and further muscle strains, perpetuating the condition and possibly increasing the severity of it.

Testing for Trigger Points and CMP

Diagnosing CMP is reminiscent of a process of elimination framework that involves ruling out all other conditions that may be the source of muscle pain.

Although trigger points are a good indication that CMP or Fibromyalgia may be the condition at hand, it is not a telltale sign that nothing else is at play.

A doctor can employ different techniques to press on the trigger points in different ways, effectively eliciting different responses.

This is the best way to diagnose CMP, allowing a patient to continue on in the process and begin considering different treatment options.

Treating CMP: Combining Techniques for Success

There is no conclusive evidence that advocates one type of treatment over another.

However, it has been found over time that a combination of treatment is much more effective for addressing the problems of CMP than one treatment alone, which, in all actuality, may have little to no effects at all.

Medications are among the most frequent treatments used for CMP. Common medications used include pain relievers, antidepressants and sedatives.

All three types are used because they are known to relieve pain, improve sleep and relax muscles.

Doctors tread carefully in this area, however, as many sedatives can be addictive and pose further problems for treatment in the future.

Therapy is often used in addition to medications in order to relieve pain further. Stretching, massages, heat and ultrasounds are all options that a doctor and patient can choose from to explore which might be the most effective for their specific case.

Stretching and massages both ease the pain in affected muscles, applying pressure on specific areas to relieve tension and help ease a person into a state of relaxation.

This is often complemented by the use of heat, which further reduces pain and relieves tension that has been built-up through muscle strains.

Along similar lines, an ultrasound is often helpful because it uses sound waves to increase blood circulation and warmth, both of which can promote healing in muscles.

Needle procedures can often be used in extreme cases of CMP. During this form of treatment, a patient will have a numbing agent or steroid injected directly into a trigger point, effectively relieving the tension that has been built up and encouraging blood flow to the area.

Consequently, acupuncture is another good option to relieve the tension associated with Myofascial Pain Syndrome.

Preventing the Pain of CMP

Although it is not possible to prevent all episodes of CMP, it is possible to follow some guidelines that can lessen the frequency with which episodes occur.

Many of the techniques that an individual can employ are all related to conscious decisions that are made on a daily basis.

Improving posture, exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, using proper physical technique for any activity and learning how to manage stress are all integral parts of recovery for individuals struggling with the discomfort of CMP.

Because being overweight and sedentary can often cause inflammation and other complications that encourage the development of Myofascial Pain Syndrome, the best advice is to take precautions even if symptoms or extremely minor.

That way, should symptoms still worsen, there are no factors present in the body to worsen the severity of the pain.

Chronic Pain Under Control 

CMP is one of the few chronic pain conditions that can be successfully controlled by doctors through a variety of techniques.

Although the episodes may never fully recede, the frequency and severity of them often does.

This means that those living with Myofascial Pain Syndrome no longer have to always worry about what the next day might bring.

The most important thing to keep in mind for a speedy treatment is to visit the doctor as soon as symptoms arise.

The longer an individual waits, the longer treatment will take and the worst the symptoms will be during recovery.

For those serious about defeating the discomfort caused by CMP, seek help early and continue living your life free from the pain of CMP.