When It’s More Than Just Aching Muscles: Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome
All of us have experienced muscle pain of one form or another that comes from overuse, stress, or injury. With rest and some form of therapy, the pain fades and we soon return to our old selves. But what if the pain doesn’t go away—what if, in fact, it seems to dig in deeper, causing continuing difficulties with carrying out our daily responsibilities?
After a car crash, the pain of muscle injuries sometimes becomes chronic, resulting in Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS). Acute muscle injury can cause trigger or tender points that develop into MPS. Repeated muscular stress that leads to muscle tightness and inflammation can also cause the development of trigger points and MPS. No one is certain why it develops in some cases but not others.
Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome Explained
Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a type of muscular pain that affects the sheath of tissue, called the fascia, surrounding a muscle. Unfortunately, no specific diagnostic test exists that can conclusively prove that a patient is suffering from MPS. Instead, MPS is usually a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that once other illnesses or injuries are ruled out, MPS is the likeliest conclusion. Some may refer to this as a subjective diagnosis, meaning that the medical professional’s judgment is called for.
Those enduring the pain of MPS often develop what are called trigger points or tender points that feel like bumps or “knots.” When trigger or tender points exist, they generally radiate pain to nearby areas of the body. Depending on where the trigger or tender points are on the body, problems such as chronic headaches, a not-uncommon result of MPS, can occur.
Types of Trigger Points
A skilled medical professional can diagnose trigger points and will classify them to aid in diagnosis. Trigger point (TP) types are:
- Active TP, which will “jump” when pressed. It is considered the classic type of trigger point and is often extremely tender.
- Latent TP, which is a knot in the muscle that does not feel painful when it is pressed. However, a latent trigger point can turn into an active one. Latent TPs can also cause muscle weakness.
- Secondary TP, which is a muscular point that becomes painful when another muscle is overactive.
- Satellite myofascial point, which is a TP that becomes painful because its muscle is located near another trigger point.
Causes of Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome
While we know that trauma to muscles, especially untreated trauma, can cause MPS, the actual mechanism of the cause is not known. It does appear that trigger or tender points sometimes develop in tissues that never recover from injury or that are repeatedly overworked. These points, caused by muscular contraction, do not receive normal blood flow. Because of this, waste products in the muscles cannot be flushed out, which creates discomfort and continuing muscular contraction. This succession of events can bring a cycle of pain that is more challenging to break the longer it continues.
Are Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia the Same?
Myofascial Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) are not considered identical. However, a number of researchers believe that MPS is a subset of FMS because fibromyalgia causes more widespread, generalized pain, along with sleep disturbances, headaches, and fatigue. A diagnosis of FMS requires a certain number of trigger or tender points to be located on various areas of the body; MPS is generally more localized. However, both MPS and FMS are diagnoses of exclusion (subjective diagnoses), and sometimes Fibromyalgia Syndrome develops from Myofascial Pain Syndrome.
Symptoms of MPS
If you have recently been in an accident, and you are suffering from the following symptoms, you could have developed MPS:
- Pain that does not fade or worsens
- Deep muscular pain
- Tender bumps or knots in muscles
- Pain that makes it hard for you to sleep.
Some of the symptoms that have been documented in court cases involving car and truck crashes and MPS are:
- Chronic pain of the neck or back, with tingling and/or numbness
- Regular, severe headaches, often with sensitivity to noise or light
- Sleep disturbances
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Mood disturbances, including depression
- Cognitive difficulties such as an inability to concentrate or to multitask.
Living Your Life with Chronic Pain
Chronic pain of any type, including MPS, cannot be cured, only managed. You need instead to learn to adapt your life to the pain. Some of the ways in which you can learn to live with MPS include:
- Pain-relieving medication, generally over-the-counter (OTC). Prescription painkillers, because they are often opioids, are not a good option.
- Physical therapy and, when needed, occupational therapy. Massage therapy can also be helpful.
- Low-impact exercise, such as walking, bicycling, or swimming, along with daily stretching.
- Lifestyle changes, including following a healthy diet, getting adequate rest, minimizing stress, and quitting smoking. Smokers usually experience more pain than nonsmokers.
- Some persons have found that giving up caffeinated beverages can be helpful.
Chronic Pain Expenses and Settlements
Treating MPS can be expensive and can quickly exhaust your resources. Settlements provide the funds needed to get the treatment (medication, physical therapy, trigger point injections, and myofascial stretching) that you need to help you deal with the pain. When you are suffering because someone else is at fault, it is only right that they should bear the financial burden of making you better.
Chronic pain may mean you cannot work for a while, or cannot work as many hours as you have in the past. You might even need to find a new position in another field to accommodate your injury. A settlement can help you financially offset any work restrictions that become necessary.
When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.
Have you been in an accident where the other party was at fault? Have you suffered a painful injury because of it? Our accident lawyers have represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve. If you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to make sure that you understand your legal rights. South Carolina law on car crashes is complex, and the deadline for filing a claim can be short. Contact the Louthian Law Firm for help by calling us at 1-803-454-1200. If you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.