Everyone experiences the aches and pains of daily life. Stiff backs and sore necks are almost a consequence of living. But when those aches and pains stick around even after you've cycled through your usual tricks, you likely have more than standard discomfort.
Myofascial pain is an oft-overlooked pain condition that affects millions of people. Our team at Nebben Physical Medicine in Clarksville, Tennessee, wants to shed some light on where it comes from and how to treat it.
Here's what you should know about myofascial pain.
What’s myofascial pain?
Myofascial pain refers to pain and discomfort in your musculoskeletal system (bones and muscles). The pain usually stems from pressure on trigger points in your muscles or the fascia (the connective tissue surrounding the muscles), which causes symptoms in the muscles.
Sometimes, your pain is in seemingly unrelated areas of your body, a condition we call referred pain.
Trigger points are areas of hypersensitivity that form in your muscles and can cause pain, stiffness, and weakness. Pressure on trigger points results from a variety of factors, including:
- Repetitive motion or overuse of a particular muscle group
- Acute injuries, such as strains and sprains
- Poor posture
- Emotional stress, which can cause muscle tension
- Nutritional deficiencies
People with myofascial pain experience deep, aching, persistent muscle pain. Tender knots can also form, and the pain can make sleeping difficult.
Diagnosing myofascial pain
Because your muscles and soft tissues can hurt for a variety of reasons, myofascial pain is difficult to diagnose. We start by gently pressing on the painful areas of your body, feeling for tense spots. Often, pressing on a trigger point can make your muscles twitch.
We also ask you about your symptoms:
- What symptoms are you experiencing?
- Where’s the most intense area of pain?
- How long have you experienced these symptoms?
- Do your symptoms occur periodically or persistently?
- Does anything worsen or relieve your symptoms?
- Do your symptoms vary in intensity throughout the day?
- Do you perform repetitive tasks at work or home?
- Have you had any recent injuries?
- Do you limit your activities due to pain?
Answering honestly and thoroughly is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
Treating myofascial pain
If we determine you have myofascial pain, we can recommend a few treatments. The most common include:
Pain relievers (over-the-counter and prescription) can take the edge off your pain by relieving inflammation and allowing you to relax. Antidepressants and anxiety medication can also address your pain and the mental health and sleeping problems that can arise.
Having myofascial pain is incredibly frustrating, but there are helpful therapies. We often recommend:
- Gentle stretching to reduce muscle tension and the severity of trigger points
- Massage therapy to release muscle tension and improve circulation
- Heat therapy to increase blood flow
- Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch your muscles
- Chiropractic care to improve skeletal alignment
- K-Laser therapy to increase circulation and decrease swelling
Posture training is another way to strengthen the muscles around your trigger point(s) and help you avoid overworking your muscles.
Trigger point injections are designed to address myofascial pain. They involve injecting a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
In some cases, inserting the needle into the trigger point is enough to break up the muscle tension, a technique called dry needling.
Acupuncture, which involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points of the body to help relieve pain and tension, is also effective for people with myofascial pain.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Sometimes, your body needs a little TLC to feel better. Try increasing your activity levels, managing stress, eating a healthy diet, and establishing regular sleeping patterns. Being healthier gives you the energy to cope with your pain.
Help us help you
Getting a proper diagnosis for myofascial pain syndrome can be challenging, as its symptoms overlap with those of other disorders. To get the most out of your appointment, we recommend jotting down ahead of time:
- All the symptoms you're experiencing, even those you think are unrelated
- Your current medications, supplements, and pre-existing conditions
- Any questions or concerns you have
You may also consider taking notes on the information you get during your appointment. Feel free to bring a trusted friend or family member to help you remember.
Body aches are a nuisance and threat to your well-being, and the road to recovery can be difficult. Don't go it alone. Call or click to schedule an appointment with our experts and get started with a treatment plan.