When the back or neck is not functioning properly, the muscles surrounding the weak or injured area go into spasm to protect the spine. If the spasms persist, the muscles become tight and painful. Often the original weak area may be completely healed or only periodically flare up, as in arthritis, yet the myofascial pain persists and is even more disabling than the initial problem.
Why does Myofascial pain persist?
The spine was designed to work as one unit in harmony with the overlying muscles. If parts of the spine are not functioning properly, the smooth chain is disrupted - other parts of the spine must compensate and work harder.
As this process is repeated, muscles become tighter and more restricted and the pain spreads. It is common for pain to begin in the low back and to spread to the neck. Irritated nerves an undiagnosed disorder of the spine are sometimes responsible for persistent pain.
Who is at risk?
Poor physical condition is a cause. Out-of-shape muscles can handle ordinary tasks (such as housework, gardening or driving), however the muscles tighten after an injury, becoming weaker and less able to do any work without fatigue or pain.
Emotional factors can be a cause. Stress may bring on a tension headache or tense neck muscles.
Smokers have more difficulty with myofascial pain than nonsmokers.
Diet does not directly affect myofascial pain, but overweight does. A sensible diet and weight control are important steps in reducing risk factors.
How is it treated?
The tight, restricted areas of the muscles and fascia must be restored to their normal lengths by stretching. Deep heat relaxes the muscles and allows them to be stretched through specific exercises. Specialized massages are also helpful.
Trigger Point Injections?
The most painful areas are felt as tender "knots" in the muscles. These areas are painful when pressed and may cause shooting pain in the arms and legs. Because these muscles are difficult to stretch, trigger point injections are used to break up the trouble spots and decrease pain. A local anesthetic, such as novacaine, is injected. Pain may be quickly relieved, allowing treatment with physical therapy.
What Else Can I Do?
Poor sleeping patterns must be corrected.
General fitness must be improved.
New ways of dealing with anxiety and stress can be learned, such as through relaxation training.