Condition: Myofascial pain or myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a medical term used to describe muscle pain, weakness, stiffness and inflammation.
Background: MPS is a chronic condition that affects approximately 9 million people in the U.S., including 95% of people who have chronic pain. MPS can affect either a group of muscles or a single muscle and develop as a result of injury or overload.
Risk Factors: Many different activities put people at greater risk for MPS—such as intense exercise, abnormal posture, joint dysfunction and even conditions like sleep deprivation and chronic infection. People whose jobs require them to do repetitive physical work or have a poorly designed work station are also at greater risk, as well as people with certain physical abnormalities.
History and Symptoms: MPS usually involves "trigger" points which are areas where a person experiences the pain, but not necessarily where the actual pain is being generated. Although pain is the primary symptom, people often experience other symptoms, like tiredness and sometimes depression.
Physical Exam: During the exam, the health care provider will apply gentle pressure to the painful area to feel for tight muscle bands and to better understand the trigger points and responses.
Diagnostic Process: Physicians categorize trigger points into two types: active and latent. Active trigger points are extremely tender and found within the muscle that is generating the pain. A latent trigger point is less tender and inactive.
Rehab Management: Stretching, applying heat or ice and using ultrasound are some therapies used to reduce pain. Pain relievers also can help.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: The National Institute of Health’s Division of Occupational Health & Safety offers tips on how to make a workplace ergonomically friendly. The section on computer placement and usage can benefit both workers and non-workers alike.