[Diagnosis and therapy of myofascial trigger points]

D G Simons, S Mense
Der Schmerz 2003, 17 (6): 419-24

AIM: Myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) are hyperirritable tender spots in palpable tense bands of skeletal muscle. Muscle is an orphan organ, no medical specialty claims muscle as its organ. The article aims at filling some of the gaps in the current knowledge of MTrPs.

METHODS: The presented findings were partly obtained in experiments on anesthetised rabbits, partly they are the result of ample experience with patients suffering from MTrPs.

DIAGNOSIS: Each muscle has a characteristic elicited referred pain pattern that, for active MTrPs, is familiar to the patient. Without a laboratory test or imaging method, diagnosis of MTrPs depends entirely on history and physical examination. MTrP symptoms follow muscle overload, are activated acutely by sudden overload, or develop gradually with prolonged contractions or repetitive activity. The diagnostic skill required depends on considerable innate palpation ability, authoritative training, and extensive clinical experience.

THERAPY: Effective treatment methods include manual stretching by trigger-point pressure release, contract-relax, vapo coolant spray-and-stretch, and dry needling or injection of MTrPs.

CONCLUSIONS: The integrated hypothesis presents an explanation for the pathophysiology of MTrPs and begins with excessive release of acetylcholine from involved motor endplates. It depends on a new understanding of the abnormality of endplate noise. Biopsies demonstrate segmental shortening of groups of sarcomeres in individual muscle fibres and possibly waves of contracted sarcomeres to account for palpable taut bands.

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