doctor and patient discussing the risk factors of myofascial pain syndrome

Who is at Risk for Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

Myofascial pain syndrome is a disorder characterized by chronic pain. This pain is specific to the muscles and the fascia, which is a web like tissue structure that encompasses the muscles. 

Generally localized to a specific muscle or group of muscles, some sort of trauma to the muscle is usually involved. It creates what experts refer to as a “trigger point.” The trigger point is the original point of injury. It may create a sensation of being knotted, as it is a spot of bunched up muscle fibers. The trigger point then creates what is known as referred pain -- pressure to the trigger point creates pain throughout the muscle or group of muscles. 

The cause of myofascial pain syndrome is still questionable. However, there are variety of factors that may contribute to its development. 

Muscle Trauma

Trauma through injury to a muscle increases the risk that you may develop myofascial pain syndrome. This trauma can occur in different ways. “Trauma” generally suggests a single instance of injury that causes chronic pain. While this is also true for myofascial pain syndrome, it isn’t the only way to develop a trigger point. Repetitive activities, whether from frequent sports activities or because of occupation requirements, can also cause damage to the fascia and muscles sufficiently enough to create a trigger point. 

Even if there isn’t a specific repetitive movement, continually putting excessive amounts of strain on a particular muscle or group of muscles may have a similar effect. Even bad posture can create repeated strain on certain muscle groups. For example, cocking your head forward to stare at your phone puts up to 40 pounds of pressure on your neck muscles!

Psychological Factors

Physical and psychological factors often interplay to have positive or negative effects on the body. This is especially true for myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial Release Treatment Centers and Seminars states that “Fascial restrictions affect our flexibility and stability, and are a determining factor in our ability to withstand stress and perform daily activities.” 

Experts seem to agree that the more stress and anxiety you carry, the more likely you are to develop myofascial pain syndrome. And while it may be due to the inflexibility developed by injured fascia, it may also tend to revert back to posture. Increased stress tends to make you tense -- and not just mentally. People tend to have different physical responses to stress, but the vast majority of people clench and tighten at least one muscle group somewhere in the body, even if it is subconsciously. This creates ongoing strain, particularly if you experience chronic stress, or fail to manage stress effectively. 

Underlying Disorders

Certain medical conditions seem to influence the development of myofascial pain syndrome. These different disorders may impact the body negatively, making you more susceptible to developing trigger points. It is also possible that chronic diseases or acute periods of convalescence increase the stress that may play such an important role in developing myofascial pain syndrome. 

Disorders that may increase the chances of developing myofascial pain syndrome include: anemia, heart attacks, hypoglycemia,sleep disorders, hypothyroidism, insufficient quantities of particular vitamins, disorders of the stomach, radiculopathy, visceral diseases, hyperuricemia, chronic infections, and even depression. 

Last Updated: November 15, 2016