Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic condition that causes inflammatory changes in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It usually affects skeletal muscle. It is caused by injuries, repetitive strain on the muscle, mental stress, anxiety, poor posture, and many more. Its symptoms involve pain, tenderness, and spasms in the affected muscle with fatigue, sleep disturbances, and others. In some cases, it causes pain in unrelated parts of the body which is known as referred pain. It happens due to irritation of the trigger points in that area. Headache is one of the examples of referred pain in myofascial pain syndrome.
Can Myofascial Pain Syndrome Cause Headaches?
Myofascial pain syndrome is a painful condition characterized by inflammation of the muscle fascia. Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds the muscles. Myofascial pain syndrome affects skeletal muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Muscle pain develops due to the repetitive contraction of the muscle. Sometimes, pain is felt in a remote place instead of the inflamed muscle. Such type of pain is called referred pain. This type of pain may occur in unrelated parts than the actual site of the injury.
Headache is an aching or throbbing pain that may appear in one or more parts of the head, neck, or face. It interferes with one’s ability to perform normal daily activities. Stress, anxiety, depression, neck arthritis, eye problems, change in weather, and many more may induce a headache. It can affect anyone at any age.
When the trigger points develop in the head, neck or shoulder, then it can cause pain in the head in a specific pattern. Such type of pan in the head is known as tension-type headache. According to experts, myofascial trigger points often activate the central nervous system that in turn excites trigger points. During increased excitability of nerves, pain due to these trigger points aggravates. This links myofascial pain syndrome to headache as the trigger points are located in the head, neck, and shoulder. It may result in episodic and chronic tension-type headache in some people.(1)
However, the exact link between a tension headache and myofascial trigger points is not established yet. Scientific studies are carried on to understand this connection and find out the solution.
One type of therapy is needed to treat trigger points in the head and neck region is massage therapy. The message is focused on the clenched and knotted muscle to subside the symptoms. However, massage therapy may work for some people and not for others.
The potential cause of myofascial pain syndrome is the stimulus received from the brain. It is called central sensitization. In it, the brain remains on high alert and reacts and sends signals for pain even in the mild stimulus. It is also noticed that the factors that lead to nervous, genetic and environmental triggers affect sleep and stress. These factors result in the appearance of myofascial pain syndrome.(1)
Muscle pain is triggered by sensitive points in the body. These sensitive points are called trigger points that are tight knot positioned in the muscular band. These knots are felt under the skin and is tender when external pressure is applied or when pressed.
The trigger points are of two types. One is the active trigger point that causes pain even at rest. Another one is the latent trigger point that causes weakness in the muscle and restriction in movement. It does not cause pain.
The trigger point expresses pain when muscle contracts creating twitching in the muscle. It develops as a result of repetitive injury to the muscle tissues that can happen in sports, post-surgery, and physical activities that puts repetitive pressure on the muscles.
Myofascial pain syndrome is an inflammatory disease of muscle fascia. It develops when a trigger point is pressed. If trigger points develop in the head, neck or shoulder, then, it may induce a headache. Such heads are termed as a tension-type headache that may become chronic and episodic.
- What is Headache or Cephalalgia?
- Pathophysiology of Headache: Primary Headaches, Secondary Headaches
- Classification and Types of Headache: Primary Headaches, Secondary Headaches
- Signs and Symptoms of Headache & How Long Do Headache Symptoms Last?| Identifying the Type of Headache
- Treatment for Headache: Medications, NSAIDs, Opioids, Oxygen Therapy, Surgery
- Tests to Diagnose Headache: Blood Tests, Imaging, EEG, Eye Examination, Spinal Tap
- Preventive Treatment for Headache: Cluster, Migraine, Tension Headaches