Evaluation of mitochondrial function in chronic myofascial trigger points - a prospective cohort pilot study using high-resolution respirometry

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018 Oct 30;19(1):388. doi: 10.1186/s12891-018-2307-0.


Background: Myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) are hyperirritable areas in the fascia of the affected muscle, possibly related to mitochondrial impairment. They can result in pain and hypoxic areas within the muscle. This pilot study established a minimally invasive biopsy technique to obtain high-quality MTrP tissue samples to evaluate mitochondrial function via high-resolution respirometry. Secondary objectives included the feasibility and safety of the biopsy procedure.

Methods: Twenty healthy males participated in this study, 10 with a diagnosis of myofascial pain in the musculus (m.) trapezius MTrP (TTP group) and 10 with a diagnosis of myofascial pain in the m. gluteus medius (GTP group). Each participant had 2 muscle biopsies taken in one session. The affected muscle was biopsied followed by a biopsy from the m. vastus lateralis to be used as a control. Measurements of oxygen consumption were carried out using high-resolution respirometry.

Results: Mitochondrial respiration was highest in the GTP group compared to the TTP group and the control muscle whereas no differences were observed between the GTP and the control muscle. When normalizing respiration to an internal reference state, there were no differences between muscle groups. None of the participants had hematomas or reported surgical complications. Patient-reported pain was minimal for all 3 groups. All participants reported a low procedural burden.

Conclusions: This pilot study used a safe and minimally invasive technique for obtaining biopsies from MTrPs suitable for high-resolution respirometry analysis of mitochondrial function. The results suggest that there are no qualitative differences in mitochondrial function of MTrPs of the trapezius and gluteus medius muscles compared to the vastus lateralis control muscle, implying that alterations of mitochondrial function do not appear to have a role in the development of MTrPs.

Trial registration: Registered as No. 20131128-850 at the Coordinating Center for Clinical Studies of the Medical University of Innsbruck, trial registration date: 28th November 2013 and retrospectively registered on 11th of October 2018 at ClinicalTrials.gov with the ID NCT03704311 .

Keywords: High-resolution respirometry; Mitochondria; Mitochondrial function; Muscle biopsy; Myofascial trigger points.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Needle / methods
  • Buttocks
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Superficial Back Muscles / metabolism*
  • Superficial Back Muscles / pathology*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03704311