Myofascial pain literally means pain coming from the muscles (myo is the Latin term for muscle) and the fascia (the thin tissue that covers muscles). Myofascial pain is probably one of the least understood and most frequently misdiagnosed types of pain. It is also one of the most common sources of pain and results in a huge number of GP consultations, days lost from work, and missed sports activities.
The symptoms of myofascial pain can vary depending on the location and severity of the problem. People suffering with myofascial pain often describe deep aching pain which can be either constant or intermittent. It is usually aggravated by the use of the affected muscle or muscle group. This can be accompanied by burning or stabbing pain, weakness, tingling, increased or decreased sweating, stiffness, sleep difficulties, or dizziness. Myofascial pain can be made worse by sitting in one position for too long, repetitive activities such as typing, cold or damp weather, exposure to a cold draught , or psychological stress.
There are approximately 400 muscles in the human body, and any one of these can develop what is called a myofascial trigger point (TP). Trigger points are “nervous hot spots” which cause muscles to become abnormally sensitive. This nervous excitability results in the development of tight bands of muscle or fascia that, when pressed, cause local pain, as well as referred pain to somewhere else in the body.
Acupuncture treatment of trigger points has been practiced widely in the UK for over 3 decades.
Acupuncture causes an immediate relaxation of the muscle because of the effect of the “micro-trauma” to the surface of the muscle being treated. This relaxation will then reduce a degree of the muscle spasm and consequently allow further stretching of the affected muscle group.
Acupuncture is not the treatment- it is only part of the treatment. At our clinic acupuncture is commonly used with other osteopathic techniques to ensure maximum healing potential.
More often than not acupuncture is almost completely painless. The needles used for acupuncture are very fine indeed, with a diameter as small as 0.2mm- almost like a hair. The needles are sterilised and never used more than once so they remain incredibly sharp- hence almost no pain as they pass through the skin. In experienced hands, acupuncture is extremely safe.
Deactivation of trigger points with acupuncture usually takes a course of treatment. The muscles associated with trigger points have often been dysfunctional for many months, so the re-education of the nervous system takes time.
As a general rule we tell patients that if they have not had any change in symptoms after four treatments at weekly intervals, they are unlikely to do so.