Understanding the vascular environment of myofascial trigger points using ultrasonic imaging and computational modeling

Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2010;2010:5302-5. doi: 10.1109/IEMBS.2010.5626326.


Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a common, yet poorly understood, acute and chronic pain condition. MPS is characterized by local and referred pain associated with hyperirritable nodules known as myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) that are stiff, localized spots of exquisite tenderness in a palpable taut band of skeletal muscle. Recently, our research group has developed new ultrasound imaging methods to visualize and characterize MTrPs and their surrounding soft tissue. The goal of this paper was to quantitatively analyze Doppler velocity waveforms in blood vessels in the neighborhood of MTrPs to characterize their vascular environment. A lumped parameter compartment model was then used to understand the physiological origin of the flow velocity waveforms. 16 patients with acute neck pain were recruited for the study and the blood vessels in the upper trapezius muscle in the neighborhood of palpable MTrPs were imaged using Doppler ultrasound. Preliminary findings show that symptomatic MTrPs have significantly higher peak systolic velocities and negative diastolic velocities compared to latent MTrPs and normal muscle sites. Using compartment modeling, we show that a constricted vascular bed and an enlarged vascular volume could explain the observed flow waveforms with retrograde diastolic flow.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Blood Vessels / diagnostic imaging*
  • Blood Vessels / physiopathology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler
  • Vascular Resistance