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Signs and Symptoms of the Myofascial Pain Syndrome: A National Survey of Pain Management Providers

Harden, R. Norman M.D.; Bruehl, Stephen P. Ph.D.; Gass, Suzanne B.A.; Niemiec, Claudia B.S.; Barbick, Brian B.S.

The Clinical Journal of Pain: March 2000 - Volume 16 - Issue 1 - p 64-72
Article

Objective: The goal of this study was to assess clinical consensus regarding whether myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a legitimate and distinct diagnosis as well as the signs and symptoms characterizing MPS.

Design: A standardized mailed survey with return postage provided.

Subjects: A total of 1,663 American Pain Society members in medically related disciplines listed in the 1996/1997 directory.

Outcome Measures: A standardized survey assessing clinical opinion regarding whether MPS is a legitimate diagnosis, whether MPS is a clinical entity distinct from fibromyalgia, and the signs and symptoms believed to be "essential to," "associated with," or "irrelevant to" to the diagnosis of MPS.

Results: Of the 403 surveys returned, 88.5% respondents reported that MPS was a legitimate diagnosis, with 81% describing MPS as distinct from fibromyalgia. The only signs and symptoms described as essential to the diagnosis of MPS by greater than 50% of the sample were regional location, presence of trigger points, and a normal neurologic examination. Regarding the signs and symptoms considered to be essential or associated with MPS, more than 80% of respondents agreed on regional location, trigger points, normal neurologic examination, reduced pain with local anesthetic or "spray and stretch," taut bands, tender points, palpable nodules, muscle ropiness, decreased range of motion, pain exacerbated by stress, and regional pain described as "dull," "achy," or "deep." Sensory or reflex abnormalities, scar tissue, and most test results were considered to be irrelevant to the diagnosis of MPS by a large proportion of the respondents.

Conclusions: There was general agreement across specialties that MPS is a legitimate diagnosis distinct from fibromyalgia. There was a high level of agreement regarding the signs and symptoms essential or associated with a diagnosis of MPS. Differences across specialties are discussed. This survey provides a first step toward the development of consensus-based diagnostic criteria for MPS, which can then be validated empirically.

Center for Pain Studies, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Received July 13, 1999; revised November 10, 1999; accepted November 15, 1999.

Address correspondence to Dr. R. Norman Harden, Center for Pain Studies, 11th Floor, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, 345 East Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611; e-mail: nharden@rehabchicago.org

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.