Quantification of Myofascial Taut Bands

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Jan;97(1):67-73. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2015.09.019. Epub 2015 Oct 14.


Objective: To assess the correlation of clinician-identified myofascial taut bands with their presence and characteristics on magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) imaging.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research laboratory.

Participants: A convenience sample of adults (N=65; 45 women, 20 men) identified by skilled musculoskeletal physicians as having upper trapezius myofascial pain-associated taut bands.

Interventions: Subjects had their taut bands outlined and were positioned within a 1.5T MRI machine. Shear waves were induced with a pneumatic transducer located over the belly of the involved muscle. Wave propagation was visualized with MRE images across a vibration cycle. Imaging data were assessed independently by 2 skilled MRE interpreters.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was the determination of the intra- and interrater reliabilities of MRE taut band identification and their correlation with clinician identification of band presence. Secondary outcomes consisted of the elucidation of the physical characteristics of taut bands and their surrounding muscle tissue.

Results: MRE intra- and interrater reliability was excellent, with kappa coefficients and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of .86 (.68-1.00) and .93 (.79-1.00), respectively. Stiffness in MRE-identified taut bands was elevated at a mean ± SD of 11.5±2.4 kPa and fell to 5.8±0.9 kPa in surrounding muscle tissue (P<.001); muscular tone in trapezius muscles without a taut band was relatively uniform at 6.6±2.1 kPa. Agreement between the physicians and the MRE raters, however, was relatively poor (63.1%; 95% CI, 50.2%-74.7%).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that while clinicians may overestimate, and current MRE techniques may underestimate, the presence of taut bands, these bands do exist, can be assessed quantitatively, and do represent localized areas of increased muscle stiffness.

Keywords: Elasticity imaging techniques; Magnetic resonance imaging; Muscles; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Elasticity
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Observer Variation
  • Superficial Back Muscles / physiopathology
  • Trigger Points / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult