Induction of muscle cramps by nociceptive stimulation of latent myofascial trigger points

Exp Brain Res. 2008 Jun;187(4):623-9. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1331-y. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


The aim of this present study is to test the hypothesis that nociceptive stimulation of latent myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) increases the occurrence of local muscle cramps. Nociceptive muscle stimulation was obtained by a bolus injection of glutamate (0.1 ml, 0.5 M) into a latent MTrP and a control point (a non-MTrP) located in the right or left gastrocnemius medialis muscles in 14 healthy subjects. A bolus of isotonic saline (0.9%, 0.1 ml) injection served as a control. The injections were guided by intramuscular electromyography (EMG) showing resting spontaneous electrical activity at a latent MTrP and no such activity at a non-MTrP. Intramuscular and surface EMG activities in the gastrocnemius medialis muscle were recorded pre-, during-, and post-injection for a period of 8 min to monitor the occurrence of muscle cramps, which are characterized by a brief episodic burst of high levels of EMG activity. The results showed that glutamate and isotonic saline injections into the latent MTrPs induced higher peak pain intensity than into the non-MTrPs (both P < 0.05). Glutamate injection induced higher peak pain intensity than isotonic saline injection into either latent MTrPs or non-MTrPs (both P < 0.05). Muscle camps were observed in 92.86% of the subjects following glutamate injection into the latent MTrPs, but not into the non-MTrPs (P < 0.001). No muscle cramps were recorded following isotonic saline injection into either the latent MTrPs or the non-MTrPs. These results suggest that latent MTrPs could be involved in the genesis of muscle cramps. Focal increase in nociceptive sensitivity at MTrPs constitutes one of the mechanisms underlying muscle cramps.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Isotonic Solutions / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Muscle Cramp / etiology*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / chemically induced
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / complications*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Pain, Referred / physiopathology*
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Isotonic Solutions
  • Glutamic Acid