Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) is a painful musculoskeletal condition, a common cause of musculoskeletal pain. MPS is characterised by the development of myofascial trigger points (TrPs) that are locally tender when active and refers pain through specific patterns to other areas of the body. A trigger point or sensitively painful area in the muscle or its junction and fascia (hence, myofascial pain) develops due to a number of causes. Trigger points are usually associated with a taut band and a ropey thickening of the muscle tissue. Typically, a trigger point when pressed upon will cause the pain to be felt elsewhere. This is what is considered “referred pain.”
The following factors can cause trigger points:
- Sudden trauma to musculoskeletal tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bursae)
- Injury to inter-vertebral discs
- Generalise fatigue (fibromyalgia is a perpetuating factor of MPS; chronic fatigue syndrome may produce trigger points as well)
- Repetitive motions, excessive exercise, and muscle strain due to over-activity
- Systemic conditions (eg: gall bladder inflammation, heart attack, appendicitis, and stomach irritation)
- Lack of activity (eg: a broken arm in a sling)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hormonal changes (eg: trigger point development during PMS or menopause)
- Nervous tension or stress
- Chilling of areas of the body (eg: sitting under an air conditioning duct and sleeping in front of an air conditioner).
The fascia is a tough connective tissue which spreads throughout the body in a three-dimensional web from head to foot without interruption. The fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, and organ of the body, all the way down to the cellular level. Therefore, malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, posture, or inflammation can create a binding down of the fascia, resulting in abnormal pressure on nerves, muscles, bones, and organs.
This can create pain or malfunction throughout the body, sometimes with bizarre side effects and seemingly unrelated symptoms. It is thought that an extremely high percentage of people suffering from pain and/or lack of motion may be having myofascial problems; but most go undiagnosed, as the importance of fascia is just being recognised only recently.