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Easing Chronic Muscle Pain – What works?

Posted Jun 10 2009 12:20am

Myofascial Pain Syndrome can be defined as chronic muscle pain. This pain originates around certain points of pain and sensitivity in your muscles called trigger points. A recent study was published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that sought to identify and review the most common treatments for myofascial pain syndrome.

This study identified many different types of treatment used, and some of them are as follows:

  • Spray and Stretch – vapo-coolant spray followed by muscle stretch
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Ischemic Compression – compressing the trigger point in the muscle
  • Occipital Release Exercises – a form of massage and mobilization for the occiput (base of skull)
  • Strain/Counter-strain – stretching a muscle and then having the patient contract that muscle
  • Myofascial Release – compressing and tensioning the trigger point while stretching the muscle through its full range
  • Chiropractic Spinal Adjustments

Immediate (after treatment) benefits were demonstrated with the chiropractic adjustments, spray and stretch, compression, massage and strain/counter-strain. The authors therefore concluded that there is moderately strong evidence to support the use of these manual therapies for the treatment of trigger point pain. These treatments, however, didn’t show as strong benefits as long term solutions.

Recommendations for other types of treatment for trigger points and myofascial pain syndrome can be drawn from this review.  They are as follows:

  • There is strong evidence that laser therapy is effective.
  • There is moderately strong evidence that electrical therapy is effective on a short term basis.
  • There is moderately strong evidence that acupuncture is effective for up to 3 months after treatment.
  • There is limited evidence for modalities such as muscle stimulation, interferential current, an other such stims.

Dr. Debbie Wright is a practicing Vancouver Chiropractor.

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