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.
Myofascial pain often goes away with treatment.
What causes chronic myofascial pain?
don't know exactly what causes chronic myofascial pain. It may start
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
People with chronic myofascial pain may have other health
problems, such as
depression, sleep problems, and
fatigue. These problems are common in people who have
How is chronic myofascial pain diagnosed?
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
Your doctor may also recommend
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
ibuprofen or aspirin. These medicines may help with your symptoms. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Sometimes doctors prescribe certain antidepressants or muscle relaxants
that help relax muscles and relieve sleep problems related to myofascial
Other Places To Get Help
American Academy of Physical Medicine and
National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine (NCCAM), National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explores complementary and
alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, trains
complementary and alternative medicine researchers, and gives out authoritative
Bennet RM (2008). Myofascial pain section of Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
syndrome. In L Goldman, D Ausiello, eds., Cecil Medicine, 23rd ed., vol. 2, pp. 2082–2083. Philadelphia: Saunders
Childers MK, et al. (2008). Myofascial pain syndrome. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2nd ed., pp. 529–537. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Kay TM, et al. (2005). Exercises for mechanical neck
disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
Lavelle ED, et al. (2007). Myofascial trigger points.
Medical Clinics of North America, 91(2):
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.