These two conditions are frequently confused by both patients and medical providers. Many patients suffer from both of these conditions at the same time.
Fibromyalgia is defined by the American College of Rheumatology as a condition with widespread pain lasting over 3 months, with no other medical explanation for symptoms (citation below). The definition also used to include certain tender points located in specific places on the body, but this requirement was removed in 2010 because many fibromyalgia patients don’t have the specific tender points, or they only have them during flares, or they have them in different locations from the “classic” locations.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a condition in which the patient has abnormal clumps of muscle fibers or knots or bands known as trigger points. (Not to be confused with tender points, more on this in a future post….) These trigger points “trigger” or “refer” pain to other locations in the body.
next post I will go into more detail about the differences between tender points and trigger points and the different approaches needed to manage them. Stay tuned!The good news is that once the trigger points are identified they are fairly simple to treat. The bad news is that trigger points are frequently missed because most medical providers aren’t trained to recognize them. So the two conditions both cause severe pain, but the reasons for the pain are very different. This was a very brief and oversimplified introduction to these challenging conditions, and in the
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain: A Survival Manual (2nd Edition). Jun 30, 2001. by Devin J. Starlanyl and Mary Ellen Copeland. This is my desert-island resource book, I keep copies at home and at my office. (FYI: This is an affiliate link, which means we get a small percentage of money if you purchase this book or any other product through this link, thank you in advance!)
- Devin Starlanyl MD’s website at Sover.net
and Measurement of Symptom Severity”, published in Arthritis Care & Research Vol. 62, No. 5, May 2010, pp 600–610 DOI 10.1002/acr.20140 © 2010, American College of Rheumatology.
- Muscle Trigger Point Anatomy app for smartphones and tablets. The trigger point image above is from this app, and it has wonderful graphics with multiple views of the muscles and common trigger points, and their typical pain referral patterns.