Myofascial pain and muscle spasm is pain caused by inflammation and irritation to the muscles in your body. This may occur after repetitive motion, exercise, or overworked muscles that did not have the proper time to heal and recover. Other causes include trauma or possibly an underlying medical condition. Symptoms are typically described as pain in certain areas, “knots,” or “trigger points. Fortunately the prognosis for myofascial pain/muscle spasm is very good. Most with this condition do well with conservative treatments such as physical therapy, therapeutic exercises, stretches as well as focus on a healthy and balanced diet. Medications, such as anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxers may be prescribed and if not improved with conservative treatments trigger point injections may be beneficial.
Myofascial pain/muscle spasm is a form of muscular pain that may result from one single trauma or repetitive minor traumas over time. When a muscle is activated, it contracts. However if used for prolonged periods of time, the contraction is unable to relax creating what often is termed as “knots,” or “trigger points.” When contracted, the muscle closes down nearby capillaries that supply it with oxygen and nutrients. Because of this prolonged contracted state with myofascial pain and spasm the muscle fibers are unable to rid toxic waste products such as lactic acid. This becomes a chronic cycle of pain that is difficult to break. Stress, poor sleeping habits, and physical deconditioning may cause or worsen existing conditions.
Pain of the muscle or the area surrounding the muscle is the most common symptom. Patients oftentimes describe it as a deep ache or “trigger points” that when pressed on, cause significant pain and tenderness. These “trigger points” or muscle spasms usually start in one area of the body. However, over time, the pain and spasms may spread/radiate to surrounding areas.
Diagnosis of myofascial pain/muscle spasms is based upon a thorough and comprehensive physical examination. Most patients with myofascial pain/muscle spasms have tender or “trigger spots” that may be felt as “knots”. There are no specific laboratory tests or imaging that is done to diagnose myofascial pain/muscle spasms. However, your healthcare provider may order certain tests to rule out any other medical problems that may be causing your symptoms.
Each patient is unique so incorporating an individualized program of regular cardiovascular exercise and stretching is very important and one of the most effective treatment modalities for myofascial pain syndrome. Exercise and stretching allows your muscles to oxygenate and recover through increased blood flow. Regular exercise and stretches also prevents deconditioning and breakdown of your muscles. Activities such as brisk walking, swimming or bicycling is highly recommended. Whereas extreme/vigorous exercise can actually cause or worsen current symptoms. High-level and spine-specialized physical therapy in conjunction with their different techniques such as laser therapy, manual manipulation and trigger point dry needling is also highly recommended as a treatment option.
In certain situations, if activity modification and exercise is still not enough, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and trigger point injections may also be recommended. Speak to your doctor to see which treatment option would be best for you.
Dr. Niteesh Bharara
Orthopedic Specialist - Non-Surgical Sports Medicine
Director of Regenerative Medicine
Dr. Thomas Schuler
Founder of Virginia Spine Institute
Chief Executive Officer
Reviewed by: Dr. Christopher Good, MD, FACS.
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