Within the body, there are many muscles which are surrounded by fascia. Fascia is similar to ligaments and tendon, in that it is formed primarily of collagen. Fascia’s role in the body is to attach to muscles, enclose them, and separate them. Deep fascia is the dense fibrous connective tissue that is flexible and provides a supportive wrapping for muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels as they move. Overall, fascia functions to help transmit the tension created when muscle contracts.
A common problem that can arise within the muscle and its fascia is myofascial pain syndrome. This is a disorder where pressure on sensitive parts of your muscle called trigger points causes pain in other parts of your body, known as referred pain. Trigger points are similar to contracted knots in the muscle that cause the pain, tightness, physical limitation, and loss of normal function.
Myofascial pain syndrome can occur for a number of reasons. Maybe your job requires you to move a muscle repetitively in the same way, and these repeated contractions can cause trigger points and the associated myofascial pain syndrome. The difference between muscle tension pain and myofascial pain syndrome is that myofascial pain persists and is chronic.
So, what are the solutions to getting rid of these trigger points and the referred pain to help treat myofascial pain syndrome? Techniques need to address the trigger points directly to help release the knot and treat the referred pain and other symptoms that are a result of the trigger points. Dry needling is an invasive procedure where a needle is inserted into the skin and muscle directly at a trigger point. The goal of dry needling is to release the trigger point to relieve pain and improve range of motion. Soft tissue manual therapy includes soft tissue mobilization and specific localized massage to break up scar tissue and adhesions, relax muscles, improve range of motion, increase circulation, and reduce pain. Finally, self-myofascial release, or foam rolling, is a way for patients to massage knots and release trigger points on their own. This often includes the use of a foam roller or other practical items like softballs or lacrosse balls for more direct or localized pressure. Together, dry needling and these other soft tissue techniques can address trigger points and myofascial pain syndrome, improve mobility, and restore functionality to have you living and moving normally or performing your best in sports and activity.
Brandon Cordell, NASM CPT
Par4Success Intern, Summer 2016
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Exercise and Sports Science Major
For more on the Physical Therapy services we offer here at Par4Success, please visit our Physical Therapy page.