standard-title Diagnosing Myofascial Pain

Diagnosing Myofascial Pain

A diagnosis of chronic myofascial pain means that trigger points are the primary source of pain symptoms. Unfortunately, myofascial pain can mimic a variety of other conditions. Before we jump into diagnosis, let’s look at the signs and symptoms of myofascial pain:

Signs and Symptoms

The sign of a myofascial trigger point is a focused point of tenderness or pain felt when pressure is applied. Pressure to a trigger point made with a finger may also cause a sensation of shooting pain along nearby muscles, such as from the back to the neck or shoulders. The trigger point feels like a hard knot of tissue to the touch.

When a person is experiencing myofascial pain, it is often described as:

  • A dull, aching or burning muscle pain
  • Soreness or numbness frequently characterized by a sensation of referred pain.

However it may not be apparent to the untrained observer because trigger points can be present deep within a muscle. A physical examination by a doctor is often required to uncover all present myofascial trigger points.

neck 2

A Diagnosis

A diagnosis of chronic myofascial pain means that myofascial trigger points are the primary source of pain symptoms. Unfortunately, myofascial pain can also mimic a variety of other conditions. For example, myofascial pain symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to:

  • Headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tooth aches
  • Ear aches
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

Similarly, a medical provider may mistakenly overlook a myofascial pain diagnosis if a patient is also suffering from another pain-causing condition such as the ones listed above. For these reasons and the fact that myofascial pain is a poorly understood disorder, chronic myofascial pain disorder can be a difficult condition to diagnose.

During a physical examination your doctor might ask a number of questions to help diagnose the underlying condition, including the following questions:

  • Does your job or hobbies require you to perform repetitive tasks?
  • Have you recently been injured?
  • What symptoms are present?
  • What areas are experiencing the most pain?
  • Do symptoms become worse during a certain time of day?
  • Do symptoms become better or worse as a result of anything?
  • How long have symptoms persisted?
  • Are symptoms continuous or intermittent?
  • Are any activities limited by symptoms?

Portrait of a man experiencing toothache.

Contact Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia for more information on myofascial pain and how you can find relief from your pain.