Myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia

  • Similarities
  • Differences
  • Comparison
  • FAQ
  • Summary

Both myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia cause muscular pain. However, myofascial pain syndrome causes pain in certain areas, compared with fibromyalgia, which causes pain throughout the body.

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a condition that causes musculoskeletal pain in a particular area of the body.

Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and tenderness in the body, as well as fatigue and sleeping difficulties.

MPS and fibromyalgia are two separate conditions, but they do share some similarities.

This article looks at the similarities and differences between both conditions, as well as causes, symptoms, treatments, and outlook for each.

Similarities

An infographic depicting myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Infographic by Bailey Mariner

According to a 2018 comparison articleTrusted Source, both conditions share similarities, and people may mistake MPS for fibromyalgia.

Both conditions cause musculoskeletal pain. People may have MPS or fibromyalgia if they have persistent pain for more than 3 months.

Both conditions may involve central sensitization. Central sensitization is a nervous system irregularity that may contribute to chronic pain.

Central sensitization alters how the body responds to pain and may lead to people continually experiencing pain even after an injury has healed.

Differences

MPS causes localized pain, which means people only experience pain in a certain area, such as the right side of the neck or shoulder. Fibromyalgia causesTrusted Source widespread pain that can affect multiple areas in the body.

MPS has trigger pointsTrusted Source, whereas fibromyalgia has tender points.

Trigger points are tight areas of muscle that can cause pain. When people apply pressure to a trigger point, it causes pain to radiate to another area of the body.

People with fibromyalgia have tender points, which are areas of pain that may feel very sensitive or tender to the touch. These areas are near joints but not on the joint itself.

MPS pain may occurTrusted Source due to repetitive use or injury, which typically leads to localized muscle pain.

Fibromyalgia may be dueTrusted Source to a change in nerve signaling that may lead to a heightened sensitivity to pain. Genetic and environmental factors, such as having rheumatoid arthritis or a mental health condition, may also play a role in developing fibromyalgia.

Comparison table

The below table looks at the similarities and differences between fibromyalgia and MPS.

Myofascial pain syndromeFibromyalgia
Causesrepetitive activity or overuse leading to strain on muscle fibersmay involve genetic and environmental factors, such as an existing pain condition
Symptoms• localized muscle pain
• trigger points that cause radiated pain
• muscle stiffness
• widespread pain
• fatigue
• difficulty sleeping
• headaches
• depression and anxiety
• memory and concentration problems
Frequency and intensity of symptomsMPS may be acute or chronic. Acute MPS may resolve by itself or with treatment. Chronic MPS may last for 6 months or moreTrusted Source.Fibromyalgia is a long lasting condition. Symptoms may be worseTrusted Source in the morning or with certain triggers, such as changes in temperature, stress, and hormonal changes.
Diagnosis• assessment of symptoms and medical history
• physical exam to feel for tight muscle areas
• tests, such as imaging scans, to rule out other conditions
• visual examination for abnormal posture
• assessment of symptoms and medical history
• physical examination, including checking the joints to rule out other conditions
• imaging tests and blood tests to rule out other conditions
TreatmentsTreatment may focus on trigger points:
• low-level light therapy
• dry or wet needling, which involves inserting a needle into or around the trigger point, possibly with the addition of a steroid or numbing treatment
• electrical stimulation
• massage
• stretching
• transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
• ultrasound, to target soft tissues with sound waves
A combination of treatments that may include:
• medications to relieve pain, which may includeTrusted Source antidepressants and anti-seizure medication
• regular exercise, including aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises
• stress management, such as yoga, massage, and meditation
• cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help alter how people perceive pain
• improving sleep with good sleep habits
• therapy or counseling for any mental health issues
OutlookAcute MPS may resolve by itself or with simple treatment options. Chronic MPS may last for 6 months or longerTrusted Source, and may reoccur if people do not treat the underlying cause.Fibromyalgia is a long-term conditionTrusted Source that people may have to manage throughout their life. Treatments can help people manage their symptoms. Fibromyalgia is not a progressive condition, and does not cause harm to muscles, joints, or organs.

Frequently asked questions

This section answers some frequently asked questions about fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome.

Can myofascial pain become fibromyalgia?

According to a 2022 reviewTrusted Source, MPS can develop into fibromyalgia. Both conditions may also share risk factors. Overuse and injury may lead to MPS, while repetitive injuries may lead toTrusted Source fibromyalgia.

Can you have both myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia?

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, it is possible for a person to have both MPS and fibromyalgia.

It is important to receive a diagnosis of both conditions and appropriate treatment for each. Both conditions may co-occur or significantly overlapTrusted Source.

Where is the most common fibromyalgia pain?

People may experience fibromyalgia pain most commonlyTrusted Source in the following areas:

  • arms
  • legs
  • head
  • chest
  • back
  • abdomen
  • buttocks

People may experience pain in multiple areas, which may feel throbbing, burning, or aching.

Summary

MPS and fibromyalgia are both chronic pain conditions that cause musculoskeletal pain. MPS causes localized pain in certain areas, whilst fibromyalgia causes widespread pain throughout the body.

MPS may resolve with treatment, such as targeting trigger points with laser therapy, needles, or massage. Treating the underlying cause of MPS may help prevent the condition from recurring.

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition, but treatments, such as medications, exercise, CBT, and stress management, may help people manage their symptoms.

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