Myofascial Pain Syndromes in the Emergency Department: What Are We Missing?

J Emerg Med. 2015 Dec;49(6):1004-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2015.04.027. Epub 2015 Jul 4.


Background: Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), pain originating in the myofascial tissue, is a widely recognized pathology characterized by the presence of referred pain (often distant from its origin and specific to each muscle) that can resemble other pathologies and by the presence of a trigger point, a localized hyperirritable band able to reproduce the pain and its associated symptoms. Patients with acute or chronic MPS are commonly seen in the emergency department (ED), usually complaining of pain of undetermined origin. Traditionally, the emergency physician (EP) is not trained to diagnose and treat MPS, and many patients with MPS have received less than optimal management of this condition in the ED. Many types of treatments are known to be effective against MPS. Among these, trigger point injection (TPI) is considered a practical and rapid approach that can be carried out in the ED by EPs.

Objective: This article reviews the current diagnostic methods, treatment options, and procedures for MPS patients seen in the ED to enable EPs to diagnose and successfully treat this condition.

Discussion: This article discusses the clinical characteristics, etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of MPS in the ED, including a description of performing TPI.

Conclusions: MPS can mimic other clinical conditions commonly seen in the ED. MPS can be diagnosed on the basis of clinical findings; in many cases, no imaging or laboratory testing is needed. Therefore, MPS diagnosis and treatment can be successfully accomplished in the ED by EPs.

Keywords: emergency medicine; myofascial pain; trigger points.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Humans
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / therapy*