Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a common illness, characterised by acute or chronic focal pain, muscle stiffness and fatigue. The pathophysiology of MPS remains unclear. Previous preliminary studies have demonstrated therapeutic efficacy of the muscle relaxant botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A) in the treatment of MPS. A single-centre, randomised trial compared the effects of BTX-A with the steroid methylprednisolone (both administered intramuscularly with 0.5% bupivacaine), in 40 patients suffering from chronic myofascial pain in the piriformis, iliopsoas or scalenus anterior muscles. Thirty days after receiving an injection of either BTX-A or steroid followed by post-injection physiotherapy, pain severity had decreased significantly from baseline in both treatment groups, with no significant difference between the two treatment groups. However, the baseline pain score was significantly higher in the BTX-A treatment group compared with the steroid group (7.9 vs. 7.3), and the reduction in pain score between baseline and 30 days post-injection was greater in the BTX-A group compared with the steroid group (-3.9 vs. -3.5; P=0.06). At 60 days post-injection, the pain severity score for the BTX-A-treated patients was statistically significantly lower than the pain score for the steroid-treated population (2.3 vs. 4.9). Furthermore, the reduction in pain score in the BTX-A group at 60 days post-injection was greater than at 30 days (-5.5 vs. -3.9), whereas the effect of the steroid had begun to wane. These results indicate the superior efficacy of BTX-A over conventional steroid treatment in patients suffering from MPS, when combined with appropriate physiotherapy.