Myofascial Pain Syndrome vs Fibromyalgia

Pain Management Dec 16, 2019

There are many conditions that often share similar symptoms, making it difficult for doctors to successfully diagnose and treat the problem. When it comes to myofascial pain syndrome vs fibromyalgia, patients are often misdiagnosed although they are two separate conditions.

If you have ever had muscle pain, mild or severe, you understand the urgency for treatment. Even mild muscle pain is accompanied by trouble sleeping, memory problems, headaches, numbness, tingling, and even digestive issues.

All you can think of is getting relief. And this means finding the right pain management specialist who can diagnose your symptoms and provide a treatment plan to ease your pain.

To help your pain management specialist make the correct diagnosis, document all your symptoms in detail. Be able to tell your doctor where the pain is, its severity, length of stay and how it is affecting your lifestyle.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome vs Fibromyalgia

Research has shown that 2/3 of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are misdiagnosed. Meaning, doctors tell patients they have fibromyalgia when they have a different disorder altogether. Reports also state 44 million people are affected by myofascial pain. This confirms how necessary it is to help your doctor get it right.

Myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia are two conditions that resemble each other. This resemblance can lead to a wrong fibromyalgia diagnosis without a thorough evaluation. To better understand these disorders, and help prevent misdiagnosis, it is helpful to explore the two conditions, symptoms, diagnoses, causes and treatments of each.

Defining the Conditions

Although similar and often misdiagnosed, these two diseases are different.

– Myofascial Pain Syndrome

This is a chronic pain condition in which it affects your muscles. There are sensitive parts of the muscles that when pressured, produce pain. Not only can it produce pain at the pressure point or trigger point, it can also create referred pain.

Referred pain is pain perceived at other locations in the body, other than the origin of the pain. For example, a person may have an injury in their lower back but feel pain in their feet. This happens because the network of sensory nerves connects to multiple body parts.

– Fibromyalgia

This condition deals with pain that spreads through the body and makes each body part very sensitive to touch. It is also a chronic pain condition that affects the nervous system. The pain can come and go and is more common in women than men.

Causes of the Conditions

The different causes of these conditions helps doctors to correctly diagnose.

– Myofascial Pain Syndrome

It can develop after an injury to your muscle. Overuse of the muscle can also lead to myofascial pain. That’s because at the time of the injury, muscle fibers become tight and very sensitive.

Reports state stress and anxiety can lead to myofascial pain due to constant tightening or clenching the muscles, creating trigger points through the repeated strain.

– Fibromyalgia

It is sometimes described by what it is not. Researchers are certain fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disorder, nor does it cause inflammation.

Instead, fibromyalgia is how the body talks to the spinal cord and brain, which is often incorrect and too loud. Meaning, when you have an injury, even after the injury has healed, your body may be sending messages to the brain and spinal cord that you are still feeling high levels of pain. It is amplifying pain levels inaccurately.

Although there is not a link between fibromyalgia and heart attacks, strokes or other life-threatening events, it can deteriorate the quality of life for those struggling to overcome it.

For both conditions, the right diagnosis is crucial.

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Symptoms of Both Conditions

The symptoms are often similar when it comes to myofascial pain syndrome vs fibromyalgia, including: The most obvious one, muscle pain

  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive malfunctioning
  • Depression and anxiety

Differences of myofascial pain syndrome vs fibromyalgia:

  • Patients report fibromyalgia symptoms less frequently
  • Pain with fibromyalgia is often more chronic
  • Myofascial pain can sometimes be seen under the skin, whereas pain with fibromyalgia can’t be seen, only felt

Diagnosing Both Conditions

Both myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia are diagnosed by answering extensive questions from your doctor. The questions will revolve around your symptoms, from what they feel like to how long you have had them.

They will question the level of severity, as well as other symptoms connected to your pain. They do this as a process of elimination, discovering the disorders that do not exist. When there is no other reason for your pain, your doctor can assume it is either myofascial pain syndrome vs fibromyalgia.

Your doctor will be able to distinguish which of these two conditions you have by evaluating where your pain is located.

  • Myofascial pain is regional and focused on specific areas of tenderness.
  • Fibromyalgia is widespread throughout the body.

Another differentiating factor is that myofascial pain deals with trigger points, or knots of tightened muscle fibers that can sometimes be felt under the skin. Fibromyalgia has tender points that are sore to the touch.

Getting the right diagnosis is essential when developing a treatment plan.

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Treatment of Both Conditions

– Myofascial Pain Syndrome

treatment may include trigger point injections. Some refer to this as dry needling, or a process of your doctor injecting a needle into the trigger points, causing the muscle fibers to loosen. Doctors may also inject pain relieving medication to the site.

Other treatments of myofascial pain include acupuncture, physical therapy, oral and topical medications.

– Fibromyalgia

These treatments can involve non-steroidal medications, pain relievers, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, acetaminophen, heat and nerve stimulation.

With both conditions, alternative therapies are good, like cognitive behavioral therapy, or talk therapy. Additionally, your doctor may suggest stretching, massaging, posture training and ultrasounds.

It is the goal of therapy to help you further healing through exercise, relaxing and taking care of your whole self. Doctors also recommend: Biofeedback, hydrotherapy, chiropractic treatments and stress management.

Final Notes on Both Conditions

In conclusion, there are a few other important facts about myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia you should know.

  • Both conditions can exist separately, and they can coexist.
  • Most diagnoses for these conditions happen between the ages of 20 and 50, but children and the elderly can suffer from them.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for either condition. However, there are multiple treatment options for myofascial pain syndrome vs fibromyalgia that can help you live an active, healthy life.

Educate yourself, work with the right pain management specialist, and take action to reduce your pain today.

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