Myofascial pain syndrome is often a nagging problem that has the potential to impair one's mobility and degrade the quality of life. While strategies like improving your posture can reduce the chances of developing myofascial pain and at-home prevention measures like the "WITY" exercises can alleviate pain if it does arise, in some cases, the problem persists. For those with lingering myofascial pain that won’t seem to go away, additional interventions from a trained professional are usually needed.
Most experts agree that the best way to treat myofascial pain syndrome is by starting with conservative, natural care first because it is easy to access, affordable, and has little to no side effects. Physical therapists are the best first choice to treat myofascial pain syndrome because it utilizes a conservative/natural interventions that have been proven to be effective as reported in medical literature.
As with every other condition, physical therapists create treatment programs for patients with myofascial pain syndrome that are custom-tailored to each individual based on their specific set of symptoms, physical abilities, and goals; however, there's a strong chance that certain interventions will be used because they are known to be beneficial for this condition. Below, we review some of the most commonly used physical therapy techniques for myofascial pain syndrome:
- Manual therapy: this hands-on treatment involves the physical therapist moving the joints and muscles in specific directions and at different speeds to increase their mobility, flexibility, and function; manual therapy is frequently used for patients with myofascial pain syndrome, and research has shown that it is one of the most effective techniques for this condition
- Myofascial techniques: this is a variety of manual therapy techniques designed specifically for myofascial pain syndrome; it can be performed with several different methods - including the Graston Technique and Active Release Technique - but the basic principle is always the same: the therapist uses their hands, elbows, and/or an instrument to relieve pain, loosen stiff muscles and fasciae with the goal of "releasing" them
- Stretching and strengthening exercises: structured exercise is a crucial component of any treatment program for myofascial pain syndrome, as it will help to increase flexibility and boost strength and stability in the muscles of the upper back and shoulders affected by trigger points; research has also suggested that targeted exercises can reduce neck pain from frequent computer use, which is associated with myofascial pain; therefore, your physical therapist will guide you on how to perform a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises - such as the "WITY" exercises described in our last post - that you can perform on your own at home
- Posture training: if your physical therapist determines that poor posture may be a contributing factor to your case of myofascial pain syndrome, they will work to identify any posture deficits present and help you correct them by practicing proper postures for all positions
- Electrical nerve stimulation: this is another modality in which an electric current stimulates nerve fibers to reduce pain levels; research suggests that it may be beneficial for myofascial pain syndrome, but should only be used in addition to other targeted interventions
- Dry needling: in this treatment method, the physical therapist will insert a thin needle directly into a region with a trigger point, which inactivates or "resets" the trigger point, thereby reducing tightness and alleviating pain; a number of studies have supported dry needling as an effective intervention for myofascial pain syndrome, and it is frequently used by appropriately trained therapists
Myofascial pain syndrome clearly has the potential to impair your function and impede your quality of life, but it’s important to recognize that you have options that can help you deal with it. Seeing a physical therapist early on will increase the chances of a successful outcome and help you avoid future complications. For this reason, we recommend contacting your local physical therapist first and fast if you're experiencing any issues that may be caused by myofascial pain syndrome.