Myofascial pain is a fancy medical term for muscle pain, which is commonly seen in the upper back. The muscles in our body help us do everything from breathing to running. Muscles are comprised of thousands of small fibers that allow them to be flexible, yet remain strong. Myofascial pain usually originates from the disruption of the fibers through repetitive movements, inflammation or tightness.
Muscle Knots and Trigger Points
Most cases of myofascial pain come from knots or tightness in the muscle. When a contracted muscle builds up in a specific area, it can create a small lump or mass, referred to as a trigger point. These trigger points form in the areas of the muscle that have been overworked or damaged. The pain can be localized at the trigger point, or can trigger pain in other areas of the back.
Some of the risk factors that may make someone more susceptible to myofascial pain in the upper back are poor posture, heavy lifting, and muscle weakness. Factors, such as anxiety and stress can cause muscle tension in the upper back and neck. If there are injuries to the spinal discs, the neighboring muscles may start to spasm and contract to keep the affected joint in place and allow it to heal.
Myofascial pain can be diagnosed with a physical examination, during which your range of motion will be tested and your upper back muscles will be examined.
There are various options when it comes to treating myofascial pain. Massage therapies and dry needling help reduce pain quickly by relaxing tight muscles and easing trigger points. Trigger point injections can also provide rapid relief. Heat and ice therapies may relieve pain, depending on the cause. Ice may work better for muscular injuries that cause sudden pain, where heat works better for tight muscles which cause aches in the back.
There are some precautions you can take to avoid myofascial pain. Make sure your office chair and desk allow you to maintain a comfortable, yet proper posture. Care should be taken to strengthen the muscles in the back. Exercise programs, such as yoga and Pilates, can be helpful in strengthening upper back muscles.