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Discrepancy between prevalence and perceived effectiveness of treatment methods in myofascial pain syndrome: results of a cross-sectional, nationwide survey.

BACKGROUND: Myofascial pain is a common dysfunction with a lifetime prevalence affecting up to 85% of the general population. Current guidelines for the management of myofascial pain are not available. In this study we investigated how physicians on the basis of prescription behaviour evaluate the effectiveness of treatment options in their management of myofascial pain.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional, nationwide survey with a standardized questionnaire among 332 physicians (79.8% male, 25.6% female, 47.5 +/- 9.6 years) experienced in treating patients with myofascial pain. Recruitment of physicians took place at three German meetings of pain therapists, rheumatologists and orthopaedists, respectively. Physicians estimated the prevalence of myofascial pain amongst patients in their practices, stated what treatments they used routinely and then rated the perceived treatment effectiveness on a six-point scale (with 1 being excellent). Data are expressed as mean +/- standard deviation.

RESULTS: The estimated overall prevalence of active myofascial trigger points is 46.1 +/- 27.4%. Frequently prescribed treatments are analgesics, mainly metamizol/paracetamol (91.6%), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs/coxibs (87.0%) or weak opioids (81.8%), and physical therapies, mainly manual therapy (81.1%), TENS (72.9%) or acupuncture (60.2%). Overall effectiveness ratings for analgesics (2.9 +/- 0.7) and physical therapies were moderate (2.5 +/- 0.8). Effectiveness ratings of the various treatment options between specialities were widely variant. 54.3% of all physicians characterized the available treatment options as insufficient.

CONCLUSIONS: Myofascial pain was estimated a prevalent condition. Despite a variety of commonly prescribed treatments, the moderate effectiveness ratings and the frequent characterizations of the available treatments as insufficient suggest an urgent need for clinical research to establish evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome.

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