Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Have ever woken up with a pain on one side of your neck, preventing you from fully moving your head? If you have, then you got a glimpse of what it might feel like to have myofacial pain syndrome. Luckily neck issues like this only last for one to two days, however myofacial pain syndrome can last for much longer and even become chronic.


Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a painful condition of the skeletal muscles and fascia which can occur in any region of the body.  It is characterized by “trigger points”. A trigger points, sometimes referred to as knots, are painful areas in the muscle or the junction of the muscle and its surrounding fascia which are tender to touch, refer pain through specific patterns to distant areas and may produce autonomic nervous system changes including flushing of the skin, hypersensitivity of areas of the skin, sweating in areas, or even “goose bumps.”

Dr. Janet Travell originally described these myofascial trigger points in 1942. Trigger points are small patches of muscle tissue which are in spasm and shortened as opposed to an entire muscle in spasm such as a charlie horse.  The phenomenon of a painful neck muscle after a night's sleep is somewhere between a trigger point and a charlie horse.

An occasional temporary trigger point is not much to worry about but when the trigger points become repetitive and chronic it can lead to myofascial pain syndrome.  MPS can be caused by Muscle strain due to over activity, Hormonal changes, Nervous tension or stress, Anxiety, Poor posture, and repetitive motions.

Teeth grinding causes sustained contraction of muscles affecting the jaw, putting them at greater risk for developing and sustaining trigger points, and misaligned teeth can put stress on muscles that are supposed to work together so we can chew and speak without pain. TMJ related MPS has been associated with jaw, neck, face, and head pain and trigger points.

Treatment of TMJ related MPS requires an accurate diagnosis by experienced and specialized doctors.  Inexperience can result in missing this phenomenon and just writing off the pain as not important because there are no specific physical or radiologic findings.  Once identified, treatment begins with identifying the source of the MPS, proceeding with conservative therapy, and making appropriate referrals to ancillary consultants including physical therapists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors.



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