Most people have muscle pain from time to
time. But chronic myofascial pain is a kind of ongoing or longer-lasting pain that can
affect the connective tissue (fascia) of a muscle or group of muscles. With
myofascial pain, there are areas called trigger points. Trigger points are
usually in fascia or in a tight muscle.
On the night of March 28, 1986, Howard Heit's car was struck in a head-on collision. He left the scene of the serious crash thinking how lucky he was that he hadn't been hurt. "And then four to six weeks later, I started noticing twitches in the muscles of my neck and upper back. These progressed to marked spasms of my neck, shoulders, and upper back," he recalls.
The pain never ceased. All day, every day it plagued him. It became difficult for him to walk -- and almost impossible for him to work...
Using a muscle after you haven't
used it for a while, such as after a stroke or after having a broken
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of chronic myofascial pain is ongoing or longer-lasting
muscle pain, in areas such as the low back, neck, shoulders, and chest. You
might feel the pain or the pain may get worse when you press on a trigger
point. The muscle may be swollen or hard—you may hear it called a "taut band"
of muscle or "knot" in the muscle. Symptoms of myofascial pain may include:
A muscle that is sensitive or tender when
Muscle pain that happens with pressure on a trigger
Pain that feels like aching, burning, stinging, or
To diagnose chronic myofascial pain, your doctor
will ask if you have had a recent injury, where the pain is, how long you have
had the pain, what makes it better or worse, and if you have any other
The doctor will also give you a physical exam. He or
she will press on different areas to see if the pressure causes pain.
You may have tests to see if some
other condition is causing your pain.
How is it treated?
Talk to your doctor about the best way to treat
your pain. The main treatment may include any of the following:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach you how to change your negative thoughts about pain. This can also help you be more active.
Cooling spray. This involves using a cooling spray (such as Biofreeze) directly on the skin from the trigger point to the painful area
and then gently stretching the muscle. This may be repeated several
Hypnosis. Hypnosis may help you relax and reduce your pain.
Physical therapy, which may include stretching and
strengthening exercises. It may also include counseling about how to change the
things that make the pain worse. For example, you may learn how to adjust your
workstation, improve your posture, or change your sleep position to avoid
Trigger point shots
(injections). A doctor inserts a needle into the trigger point and injects
medicine such as a