Pain conditions may be difficult to distinguish. When is it a strain, when is it a ligament issue, when is it nerve-related, and when is it a matter of tissue damage? When is it a systemic issue or an immune problem? At what point does a long-term injury turn out to be a chronic problem? And what about psychosomatic pain? Some conditions are sometimes mistaken for each other on account of an overlap in symptoms or a misunderstanding of definitions.
For instance, each fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome are known for widespread and chronic muscle pain, in addition to symptoms of fatigue. But one is systemic, while the opposite is localized. Recognizing the differences between myofascial pain syndrome vs fibromyalgia is important for correct treatment and long-term pain management success.
What Is Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)?
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) just isn’t a proper diagnosis but a normal combination of pain symptoms related to powerful regional muscle pain. Myofascial pain is localized but may be widespread – for instance, the foundation of the pain may be along one side of the neck and back, however the referred muscle pain might spread down through the arm or into the pinnacle. Cases of myofascial pain syndrome involve knotted or tight muscles, which may be identified through a physical examination.
These are called trigger points and represent the foundation of the pain. While we are able to recognize and differentiate myofascial pain syndrome from other examples of muscle pain via a differential diagnosis – i.e., by ruling out other potential causes of pain – the causes and mechanisms behind myofascial pain syndrome are still poorly understood, and more research is required. Some theories point towards abnormalities within the communication between nerve cells and muscles on account of injury.
Some medical professionals imagine these trigger points are a type of focal dystonia, where only a particular few muscle fibers are being involuntarily contracted. Typically of myofascial pain syndrome, the pain symptoms begin as a typical overuse injury or an example of tissue inflammation. In contrast to common tendonitides or ligament pain conditions, like patellar knee pain or tennis elbow, myofascial pain begins within the muscle itself. The back and neck are common examples.
This initial pain becomes chronic and doesn’t go away, even with rest. The pain begins at a root point and radiates outward – touching or applying pressure to the foundation point exacerbates the referred pain. One explanation for why people experience myofascial pain syndrome is the formation of trigger points through injury. When overused, the thought is that specific muscles begin to tighten and form physical knots in response to chronic inflammation.
Central sensitization is a symptom that each myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia potentially share. This strain level is difficult to heal, partly since the muscle may always be in use (perhaps on account of manual labor or a repeated injury) and performance. In spite of everything, myofascial pain syndrome may cause a rise in stress, anxiety, and sleep disturbances on account of recurring pain, which impacts recovery and delay healing.
These muscle knots then cause referred pain throughout the remaining of the encompassing tissue and further strains as the remaining of the body tries to compensate for the weakened, injured portion of the muscle. Many of the symptoms related to myofascial pain syndrome are related to the trigger point and surrounding areas. A physical examination and differential diagnosis, ruling out other potential causes and explanations for regional muscle pain and involuntary cramping, are needed to discover cases of myofascial pain syndrome.
What Is Fibromyalgia (MF)?
While fibromyalgia (MF) also involves muscle pain, it’s a systemic health problem. Fibromyalgia is characterised by widespread fatigue and muscle pain throughout the body, in addition to other physical issues, starting from restlessness and insomnia to depression, anxiety, mood swings, and usually heightened pain perception or hyperalgesia. Individuals who experience fibromyalgia have a more difficult time with physical activities, and their pain just isn’t limited to a body part, region, or specific muscle.
Fibromyalgia also often co-occurs with specific other pain conditions, especially temporomandibular joint syndrome (extreme facial and jaw pain) and irritable bowel syndrome. While myofascial pain syndrome often occurs after physical injury, the onset of fibromyalgia may be rather more random. It could possibly even be triggered by general life stress or a traumatic event. Physical injuries or overuse injuries are also common triggers.
While fibromyalgia has been identified in all age groups, it affects mostly middle-aged or older people — specifically, older women. Fibromyalgia might also be related to autoimmune problems, as patient are likely to be more more likely to struggle with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or lupus. Since it doesn’t have apparent physical symptoms, fibromyalgia is rather more complex to discover than myofascial pain syndrome.
There is no such thing as a muscle knotting, no hard bumps. There are rarely any signs of skin flushing and no bruising or visible tissue damage. Individuals experience significantly increased pain signaling and high fatigue, but pain and fatigue are subjective. Doctors often discover fibromyalgia through an intensive combination of physical exams, blood work, x-rays, and a patient’s medical history to rule out other potential causes.
Comparing Myofascial Pain Syndrome vs Fibromyalgia
To recap: myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia feature increased pain sensitivity, more significant symptoms of general fatigue and anxiety, and sleeping problems. Nevertheless, myofascial pain syndrome often features physical muscle knots which feel tender and painful and referred pain across the knotting. Fibromyalgia can have certain regional pain areas that hurt worse than others, however the pain is usually generalized, and pain signals are overall felt more strongly.
Patients with fibromyalgia are also more more likely to experience symptoms of RA, IBS, and other co-occurring conditions. Because each pain conditions are chronic, treatment programs require a long-term, holistic approach. A patient’s weight-reduction plan, physical activity, environmental stressors, sleeping habits, and medicine use are considered when formulating a treatment plan, and pain management plays a singular long-term role in helping take care of immediate pain and long-term debilitating symptoms.
Regional medication, trigger-point therapies, and most painkillers aren’t often effective for fibromyalgia. Nevertheless, there are unique treatment options for each conditions. Myofascial pain syndrome may be treated with trigger-point injections and localized painkillers. Fibromyalgia treatment, however, may feature antidepressants and anticonvulsants.