Myofascial Pain Syndrome vs Fibromyalgia



Published on

March 31, 2024

Updated on

April 1, 2024

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Robert Stevens


What is Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

Myofascial is from two different words: the word “myo” means muscle, and “fascia” refers to the connective tissue surrounding the muscles.  Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder (condition) that affects the musculoskeletal system and the fascia.1

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) usually occurs when a muscle gets contracted repetitively due to repetitive movements or triggers that cause muscle pain to sensitive spots, known as trigger points. For some people, the pain resolves on its own, but for others, it persists. It is, therefore, advisable to have your muscles evaluated or seek medical attention regularly; the discomfort and myofascial pain syndrome can persist and cause widespread pain if left untreated.

How do we differentiate myofascial pain syndrome from fibromyalgia?

The pathogenesis of fibromyalgia (FM) and myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) are almost the same forms of musculoskeletal pain; however,  MPS is contained in one area of the body, while fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic pain condition that affects the entire body. 

Fibromyalgia pain targets tender points, while myofascial syndrome affects trigger points. FM, MPS, and chronic fatigue syndrome can be confusing with similar symptoms. Hence, it is always advisable to consult a medical provider for proper diagnosis and treatment, as per the diagnosis. According to researchers, myofascial pain syndrome can sometimes transition into fibromyalgia.2  

Symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome

Here are some of the symptoms of MPS syndrome:3

  • Persistent and localized pain
  • Deep aching, throbbing, and stiffness
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances (due to pain) 
  • Tender or sore muscles
  • Difficulties of movement in the affected areas 
  • Headaches
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Painful “knots” in the muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Postural abnormalities like shoulder rounding and hunching

What are the fibromyalgia symptoms? 

Fibromyalgia patients can have the following symptoms:4

  • Fatigue 
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances
  • Lack of concentration
  • Dementia
  • Sensitivity to noise 
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Body aches and stiffness 
  • Back pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

What causes myofascial pain syndrome? 

Muscle injury and overuse cause trigger points in the muscles. These myofascial trigger points are located within a taut band of skeletal muscle and can be painful when compressed. In summary, MPS is caused by muscle tightness or injury that triggers the trigger points in your muscles, leading to pain.1 

Trigger points3 will usually arise from lifting heavy objects, muscle overuse, muscle injury or trauma, emotional stress, anxiety, poor posture, muscle strain, a cold environment, chronic infections, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal problems, and even working on a computer all day. 

How is myofascial pain syndrome diagnosed?

MPS is one of the many underdiagnosed pain conditions. Being a problem in the muscles, people often confuse it with issues from the nerves, bones or tendons. Even though there is no specific test for MPS, a specialist can detect this syndrome by physically examining the muscles, done by feeling the muscles' taut bands, or palpating to find tender areas.5 

What are the treatments for myofascial pain syndrome?

There are several clinical and research-proven treatment plans for MFS syndrome, with most focused on the trigger and sensitive points. Besides clinical and prescription medication treatments, there are home remedies1 that can help reduce pain in your trigger points and improve a healthy lifestyle. Some of these pain relief and treatment options include:5

  1. Clinical Treatments
  • Muscle relaxants, antidepressants like serotonin and duloxetine, and anti-inflammatory drugs like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed. 
  • Therapeutic ultrasound therapy. This transmits sound waves to the skin to penetrate soft tissues. The sound waves, in turn, heat and relax the muscles.
  • Electrical stimulation. This involves electrodes being placed on the affected muscles to cause contractions in the muscles to relieve pain. 
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Involves the use of low voltage or mild electrical current to treat muscle pain or body pain
  • Red light therapy/low-level light therapy/ cold therapy. This helps decrease inflammation and increase circulation, thus reducing pain. 
  • Trigger point injection. Involves injection around or inside trigger areas, muscle knots or nodules with steroid or saline to numb the area.
  • Dry needling. The doctor uses a needle to move around and poke in and out of the trigger point, deactivating the trigger point to reduce pain.
  • Support can also be issued to muscles and joints and lifting the skin using Kinesio taping. 
  • Massage therapy. Massage therapies are so helpful when it comes to relaxing myofascial trigger points. This therapy increases blood flow and makes the muscles warm, which helps reduce and ease the pain. 
  1. Home Remedies 
  • Choose and always use a better chair for an improved posture
  • Adjust your sleeping poster and always get a new mattress if need be 
  • Adjust the height of your laptop or desktop to ensure it is in your natural eye line.
  • Start a routine exercise program to get your muscles active.
  • Always use painkillers like ibuprofen to help with pain management. 
  • Always go for therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy to stabilize your mental health, reduce stress levels, and manage and change your thoughts.
  • Engage in physical activities and exercises frequently. 
  • Physical therapy and exercises. This involves exercises and activities that correct posture.


  1. Meister, M. R., Shivakumar, N., Sutcliffe, S., Spitznagle, T., & Lowder, J. L. (2018). Physical examination techniques for the assessment of pelvic floor myofascial pain: a systematic review. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 219(5), 497.e1–497.e13. (pubmed)
  2. Plaut S. (2023). Suggesting a mechanism for acupuncture as a global percutaneous needle fasciotomy that respects tensegrity principles for treating fibromyalgia. Frontiers in medicine, 9, 952159. (pubmed)
  3. Bourgaize, S., Newton, G., Kumbhare, D., & Srbely, J. (2018). A comparison of the clinical manifestation and pathophysiology of myofascial pain syndrome and fibromyalgia: implications for differential diagnosis and management. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 62(1), 26–41. (pubmed)
  4. Cao, Q. W., Peng, B. G., Wang, L., Huang, Y. Q., Jia, D. L., Jiang, H., Lv, Y., Liu, X. G., Liu, R. G., Li, Y., Song, T., Shen, W., Yu, L. Z., Zheng, Y. J., Liu, Y. Q., & Huang, D. (2021). Expert consensus on the diagnosis and treatment of myofascial pain syndrome. World journal of clinical cases, 9(9), 2077–2089. (pubmed)
  5. Plaut S. (2022). Scoping review and interpretation of myofascial pain/fibromyalgia syndrome: An attempt to assemble a medical puzzle. PloS one, 17(2), e0263087.