Massage for back painA new study demonstrates that people who suffer from both fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome may see improvments in the pain associated with the former when the trigger points of the latter are treated.

Fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) are distinct conditions but both exhibit chronic pain as the primary symptom. The major distinction is that the pain of fibromyalgia is widespread and non-specific while MPS involves regional pain and taut muscle groups associated with well-defined trigger points.

Fibromyalgia does involve specific regions of tenderness in the soft tissues known as tender points but they are spread widely over the body rather than being regional as are the trigger points in MPS. Additionally, the trigger points in MPS have a "nodular" texture whereas tender points do not and their severity is reportedly subjectively by the fibromyalgia patient. It has generally been thought that these two condtiions required treatment approaches but new research suggests what benefits MPS may also reduce the severity of fibromyalgia pain.

Researchers from the Pathophysiology of Pain Laboratory at the University of Chieti, Italy, noted that studies over in recent years have shown definitively that fibromyalgia and MPS are frequently comorbid but that each has the ability to influence the course of the other in those patients who suffer from both conditions.

The scientists believe that that pain impulses from the MPS-associated trigger points act to increase the already heightened sensitivity to pain that the brain exhibits when one suffers from fibromyalgia - known as central sensitisation.

Treatment of trigger points generally involves some form of physical therapy which will often include various stretching exercises and sometimes massage. In some cases injection of painkillers directly into the trigger point are used. The Italian researchers reviewed studies where trigger points had been treated in patients with both MPS and fibromyalgia.

They found that patients whose trigger points were successfully treated experienced a reduction in the severity of their fibromyalgia symptoms.

The researchers therefore recommend that for patients suffering from both fibromyalgia and MPS, a significant amount of relief can be gained if MPS trigger points are treated first before any therapy specifically aimed at fibromyalgia is introduced.

Source: Giamberardino MA Affaitati G Fabrizio A Costantini R (2011) Effects of Treatment of Myofascial Trigger Points on the Pain of Fibromyalgia Current Pain and Headache Reports [Epub ahead of print]



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