The muscle condition known as myofascial pain (from the roots “myo,” meaning muscle;and “fascia,” the covering of the muscle) affects millions of people. After age 40, the incidence of myofascial pain increases dramatically.
Despite years of study, we still do not completely understand the condition-but we do have a clear picture of how it affects people and what to do about it.
Basically, there are discrete points of intense pain within certain muscles. Sometimes this occurs within a single muscle. But more often, myofascial pain involves many muscles.
The sites of intense tenderness in muscles are called “trigger points.” They can be as small as a BB or larger, firm, rounded areas deep within the muscle. They can also appear as tender cords that are often mistaken for tendons or ligaments.
I treated many patients for myofascial pain during my practice as a neurosurgeon. One of the things I found was that most of them were unaware that they had tender areas in their muscles until I massaged the tissues-and then the pain was excruciating.
Another characteristic of these tender trigger points is that when they are stimulated they can cause symptoms some distance from the site of the trigger point itself.
For example, a trigger point located in the sternocleidomastoid muscle (found on the front of each side of the neck) can cause severe headaches just above the eye and in the temporal region on the side of the head.
This is called “referred pain” from an active trigger point.
Tenderness in a trigger point that does not cause referred symptoms is called a “latent trigger point.”
I once had a patient who was suffering daily with severe frontal headaches. This person had undergone extensive testing from a neurologist, including a CAT scan, an MRI, and an EEG, as well as a number of blood tests.
After trying a long list of prescription drugs and finding no relief, the patient came to me, seeking a neurosurgical solution.
After a thorough examination and review of the patient’s tests, I examined his neck muscles for trigger points.
As I probed deep in the sternocleidomastoid muscle, the patient said, “That’s it. That’s the headache I get.”
It was a typical demonstration of a referred headache from a distant trigger point.
At that time, I was doing injections of the trigger points with a combination of lidocaine and steroids, which worked very well as long as the person had only one or two trigger points.
Over the years, I have found muscle trigger points that could cause pain down the arm or leg, numbness in the hands, or severe vertigo and dizziness.
In many cases, I have come across patients that are undergoing neck or back surgery for symptoms that are in fact caused by myofascial trigger points.
For instance, trigger points in the muscles of the buttocks can cause most of the typical symptoms and signs of a ruptured disc.
I strongly recommend “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook” by Clair Davies, an excellent book that gives instructions on how to treat your own trigger points.
Re-posted by permission from Blaylock Wellness Report.