Your muscles are covered by a tough connective tissue called fascia. Myofascial pain refers to the pain and inflammation that can develop in these tissues. For some, it may only affect a particular muscle, or it can involve a group of muscles. Identifying the source of the discomfort can be challenging, since pain can be felt in areas that are not the actual site from which it is being generated.
Once diagnosed, myofascial pain can be treated through various methods. Often, physical therapy is used to help ease discomfort. Medications are used to reduce the pain, and sometimes trigger point injections are required.
When you experience pain in areas other than the source that is causing it, the pain you feel is called referred pain. It is believed that an injury or strain in one area can develop into a trigger point. This trigger point can generate pain in other areas.
Causes of Myofascial Pain
Inflammation of the fascia can develop from a variety of causes. Excess strain on a muscle group, one muscle in particular, a ligament or a tendon are often to blame. Myofascial pain can also develop because of:
- Repetitive motions
- Stomach irritation
- Heart attack
- General fatigue
- Intervertebral disk injury
Overuse of tight muscle fibers after an injury can lead to the development of a trigger point and cause myofascial pain throughout the muscle.
One of the hallmarks of myofascial pain is the involvement of pain with a specific tender point. Also known as trigger points, the pain in these areas may increase with more activity if you experience stress. There can be local or regional pain connected with the myofascial pain.
Other symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may include:
- Aching pain – a deep, aching pain in a muscle or muscle group.
- Ongoing pain – discomfort may continue, or it may increase.
- Sensitive areas – an affected muscle may also have a knot that is sensitive to the touch.
- Sleep problems – some people have difficulty sleeping due to the discomfort they experience.
There are many reasons why you may experience muscle pain. Strains and sprains account for some pain, while medical conditions may also cause discomfort. Diagnosis of myofascial pain syndrome can be challenging because there are so many possible sources of muscle pain.
Your doctor will give you a physical examination. This may include palpitation of the location of the discomfort to identify tense areas. Specific responses to the pressure can indicate different types of issues. In some cases, you may experience more intense pain, and in others, you may have a muscle twitch. Depending on the type of response, your doctor will have an idea of what is causing the pain.
It is important to note that you may need to undergo other tests and/or procedures to rule out other causes of muscle pain. Lab tests can reveal certain vitamin deficiencies, hypothyroidism and hypoglycemia.
The type of treatment recommended for myofascial pain depends on the severity of the pain. Mild pain may be treated with physical therapy and/or over-the-counter pain relievers. Physical therapy is helpful for patients who have a fear of needles and those whose pain is not easily accessible for injection.
Muscle tightness is addressed by stretching exercises. These exercises release tight and shortened muscles. Correction of poor posture is also helpful in pain relief. Your doctor may recommend osteopathic techniques to help stretch the muscles and increase range of motion. Patients are advised to continue with stretching exercises to maintain strength and prevent recurrences of discomfort.
Injections may be recommended to provide pain relief in severe cases of myofascial pain. When the pain is chronic or does not respond to physical therapy, injections can be used to loosen tight muscles.
Dry needling is another method that has been used to relieve pain. In this type of therapy, needle stimulation is used to relax the muscle in a targeted area. The disadvantage of this method is post-injection soreness.
Myofascial pain accounts for a large percentage of the musculoskeletal pain experienced in the United States. Manhattan Sports Therapy practitioners provide pain relief for New York elite athletes as well as the active New Yorker. When you experience muscle pain, contact us for accurate diagnosis and swift pain relief. We work with you to get you back in the game.