Background: Myofascial taut bands are central to diagnosis of myofascial pain. Despite their importance, we still lack either a laboratory test or imaging technique capable of objectively confirming either their nature or location. This study explores the ability of magnetic resonance elastography to localize and investigate the mechanical properties of myofascial taut bands on the basis of their effects on shear wave propagation.
Methods: This study was conducted in three phases. The first involved the imaging of taut bands in gel phantoms, the second a finite element modeling of the phantom experiment, and the third a preliminary evaluation involving eight human subjects-four of whom had, and four of whom did not have myofascial pain. Experiments were performed with a 1.5 T magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Shear wave propagation was imaged and shear stiffness was reconstructed using matched filtering stiffness inversion algorithms.
Findings: The gel phantom imaging and finite element calculation experiments supported our hypothesis that taut bands can be imaged based on its outstanding shear stiffness. The preliminary human study showed a statistically significant 50-100% (P=0.01) increase of shear stiffness in the taut band regions of the involved subjects relative to that of the controls or in nearby uninvolved muscle.
Interpretation: This study suggests that magnetic resonance elastography may have a potential for objectively characterizing myofascial taut bands that have been up to now detectable only by the clinician's fingers.