Understanding Myofascial Pain

Whether it’s acute or chronic, pain is a sign that something isn’t right in your body. 

If you have chronic muscular pain in the same spot, such as your neck or shoulder, you may have myofascial pain syndrome. “Myo” means muscle, while “fascia” refers to the thin layer of connective tissue that covers muscles and organs. 

At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, our expert rheumatologists treat myofascial pain syndrome and other chronic pain conditions at our three New Jersey offices. We prepared this quick guide to myofascial pain so you can understand why you’re in pain and how to get the relief you deserve.

Myofascial pain is localized

Unlike the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, myofascial pain is localized to one or several small spots throughout the body. The pain is located in the muscles, not the joints, although you could feel it almost anywhere. 

Pain that you feel outside its point of origin is called “referred pain.” Referred pain is common in people who have myofascial pain syndrome.

Myofascial pain has trigger points

When your muscles are injured through trauma or repetitive use, you may develop a type of knot-like scar tissue known as a “trigger point.” You may actually be able to feel a little knot or bump in your muscles at the trigger point. 

One sign that trigger points are causing your pain is that when you press the sore area, the pain flares. That area of your muscle is constantly tense, even when it’s supposed to be at rest. Continually contracted muscles cause pain and stiffness.

But trigger points aren’t always painful. Instead, the damaged muscle in that area could cause weakness or restrict your movements.

You don’t (usually) have other symptoms

One key difference between myofascial pain and fibromyalgia is that the former tends to have pain as the primary symptom (but that’s not always the case). Straightforward pain and tenderness is associated with myofascial pain.

Sensations such as burning, prickling, or tingling are more often associated with fibromyalgia. Although both conditions can cause such symptoms as fatigue, headaches, and digestive distress, all of these are more common in fibromyalgia.

You may have both myofascial pain and fibromyalgia

If you have sharp, localized pain or restricted movement, and a general pain or discomfort that spreads over your body, you might have a combination of myofascial pain and fibromyalgia. In fact, if you have myofascial pain, you’re at greater risk for eventually developing fibromyalgia.

Untreated pain stresses your body. When you have a stiff or painful neck, shoulder, or other body part, you may overcompensate with your other muscles, which could eventually damage them, too. 

Treating your myofascial pain now gives you relief and may stave off complications, including fibromyalgia.

How to relieve myofascial pain

When our rheumatologists diagnose myofascial pain after a comprehensive work-up and tests, they may recommend a number of treatments, either singly or in combination. Unless your pain is severe, they always recommend the least invasive treatments first:

We may also recommend lifestyle changes, including adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet and getting more exercise.

To get relief from myofascial pain, call our nearest location or request an appointment using our online tool. We have offices in Somerville, Flemington, and Monroe, New Jersey.

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