Pain in the muscles and connective tissues

At some point we have all experienced pain in the muscles and their surrounding connective tissues, known as myofascial pain. Some people experience this kind of pain, whether widespread or localized, at all times.

Regardless of level of severity, it is important to address myofasical pain and whatever is causing it, whether to prevent the pain from becoming more chronic or to prevent structural changes that may occur due to chronically tightened and shortened muscles. In most cases, these conditions respond well to a combination of acupuncture and bodywork. Let’s look at the various conditions and how Red Clover Clinic addresses them.

Fibromyalgia

Chronic, widespread myofascial pain is often diagnosed as fibromyalgia, a term that has gradually seeped into everyday usage over the past 20 years and become a well-recognized condition. It is estimated that 2 to 4 percent of the population suffers from fibromyalgia. In addition to chronic myofascial pain, symptoms include sleep disturbances, mood disorders, and fatigue. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is definitely triggered and exacerbated by emotional and physical stress.

With fibromyalgia, the body has become hypersensitive to stimulus, which is registered by the brain as pain. Acupuncture can often interrupt this pain circuit, thereby reducing the client’s level of pain. Acupuncture is also a great way to reduce overall stress, by switching the nervous system from “fight-or-flight” (sympathetic) status to one of rest, relaxation, and digestion (parasympathetic) mode. 

Bodywork is also useful in treating fibromyalgia, but it is crucially important to work within the limits of the client’s pain tolerance. Interestingly, pain tolerance increases when the body is in a parasympathetic state. Deep tissue work is therefore typically not recommended; gentle myofascial release is preferred.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome and localized pain

With myofascial pain syndrome the pain is less widespread than it typically is in fibromyalgia. It is typical for a person with this condition to feel some level of localized pain at all times, as well as decreased range of motion and sleep and mood disturbances. 

Myofascial pain syndrome pain tends to be referred pain caused by trigger points. As we learned in the previous newsletter a trigger point is a specific, tender point in the myofascial tissue that, when stimulated, elicits referred pain, that is, pain that occurs at a distance from the specific tender point. 

We know that trigger point locations and pain patterns are consistent from person to person and that they become activated by lack of blood flow in the local area. This lack of blood flow could be caused by either metabolic reasons (nutrient deficiencies, for example) or physical stress (posture issues, repetitive use injuries).

For myofascial pain syndrome and localized myofascial pain, the primary focus is to treat active trigger points, and release the fascia where it is restricting proper function and causing pain. Acupuncture can be used as described above, with the addition of needling the active trigger points directly. This will often help to restore circulation in the local area and reset the muscle. 

Bodywork is a very important part of treating this kind of pain. A combination of neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release, and positional release therapy work wonders to release the chronically tightened tissue, reduce pain, and restore proper function to the muscles. See the previous issue for definitions of these techniques.

Red Clover Clinic offers “Mix and Match” sessions which allow enough time to treat chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and myofacial pain syndrome, that require a combination of acupuncture and bodywork. 

A testimonial

Anita provides a unique combination of therapeutic techniques that have been instrumental in decreasing both my direct as well as related symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome. Through careful interviewing at the start of each session, she is able to determine where the needs of the day reside within the whole treatment plan, which she has carefully developed over several weeks, beginning with an in-depth 90 minute intake interview/consultation. 

Given the fact that myofascial pain is often exacerbated by stress and can be accompanied by migraines and sleep difficulties, Anita frequently varies treatments to address these concerns. Various modalities that have been very beneficial for me have been primarily a combination of acupuncture and massage, but also some cupping, electrical stimulation, and oriental medicine (herbs). 

My greatest reasons for trust in Anita as a healer comes not only from her extensive and solid experience and competence, but from her warm and caring demeanor that leads the patient to feel that they are always welcome and never a burden. This is truly the measure of a great practitioner.  –A.S.