Disclaimer: The material presented here is provided for informational purposes only and is derived solely from my personal experience. Anyone considering any course of treatment should always check first with a doctor to ensure there are no other underlying medical problems and no contraindications. (Click here to see the full disclaimer to this website.)
Many popular medical websites recommend certain therapies for treating myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) (aka, chronic myofascial pain, or CMP). My doctors recommended similar treatments, which I found to be of very limited help. These treatments might be enough for some people, and might provide some level of pain relief for others. For those with stubborn cases like mine, these treatments might provide little or no benefit. Often the underlying causes of the pain are not addressed, and consequently, the patient does not get lasting pain relief.
The following commonly recommended treatments for myofascial pain are found on one or more of these popular websites: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, WebMD, Verywell.com. (For comprehensive lists of treatments on each site, click on the links below):
Further, Cleveland Clinic accurately points out, "It is also important to address any factors — such as poor posture, workplace ergonomics, or mechanical problems — that might be contributing to CMP pain."
WebMd also includes cognitive-behavioral therapy as a treatment approach. The site states, "cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach you how to change your negative thoughts about pain. This can also help you be more active."
Although I give credit to WebMd for including a psychology-based approach, the link between the mind and body often involves more than just the patient's negative thoughts about her or his pain. Psychological influences can include negative thoughts and automatic physical reactions to any trauma that the mind or body has endured in a lifetime.
"[T]he frequent characterizations of the available treatments as insufficient suggest an urgent need for clinical research to establish evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of myofascial pain syndrome."
Treatments I've Tried or Considered Trying
|--||Surgery fixed the neurological deficit from my ruptured disc, but likely triggered my myofascial pain|
|+||Only helpful immediately after surgery|
|+||Temporarily relieved some of the excruciating nerve pain from my ruptured disc|
|--||Medicines didn't help or had unacceptable side effects; vitamins haven't reduced my pain|
|+||Initially helpful but eventually became less effective and had unacceptable side effects |
|?||Haven't tried but might be somewhat similar to TrP injections but without side effects|
Made my pain temporarily worse
|?||Haven't tried, but don't expect to|
|--||Strengthening didn't help, sometimes made me worse; TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) had nominal positive effect|
|+||Didn't provide lasting reduction in my pain|
|++||Help to temporarily moderate symptoms, but don't permanently or completely eliminate my pain|
|+++ ||Very effective|
|++/?||Reduced spikes in my physical pain|
|?||Likely very effective if one is ready to treat mind and body|
Tried briefly; it aggravated my pain
|?||Haven't tried, but it scares me |
|Haven't tried extensively, but potentially helpful|
|+||Somewhat helpful; psychologically positive|
|+/-||Temporarily aggravated my pain to a small degree, but psychologically positive|
|+/-||Flared up my symptoms, but I don't necessarily discredit it |
|--||Greatly flared up my symptoms|
|+ ||Likely helpful; jogging tolerable and helpful only after I embraced the mind-body connection and had already healed significantly; walking more tolerable|
|+/-||Sometimes slightly flares up my symptoms; good for general health|
|+/-||Flared up my symptoms, but cathartic|
|?||Don't know; haven't tried yet|
|+||Helpful in processing the psychologically based causes of my chronic pain, but hasn't eliminated my physical pain|
EMDR (eye movement desensitization & reprocessing)
Some positive results so far
EFT (emotional freedom technique/tapping)
|+||Helped me reduce strong feelings related to past trauma, but didn't permanently reduce my pain|
|?||Don't know; probably helpful if psychological issues are behind the pain|
|+||Helps reduce my pain, but not eliminate it completely|
|+||Likely helpful in the long run, but hasn't greatly reduced or eliminated my pain|
|++||Helps reduce my pain, but not eliminate it completely|
|++||Very helpful psychologically|
|+||Beneficial to overall health, but hasn't resolved my chronic pain; eating every few hours helps reduce spikes in my pain|
|+||Most likely helpful to moderate symptoms; however, I haven't yet seen major improvement|
|++||Probably very helpful; to date, unsure of long-term effect on my pain|
|+||Helpful for temporarily reducing tension and pain|
|++||Important when managing symptoms and for allowing time to heal|
|++/?||Probably helpful; still to be determined for me|
|++/?||Could be very important; still to be determined for me|
|Temporarily very helpful after my pain came down through acknowledging emotions, but difficult to maintain|
|+++||Critical (but very difficult for some of us)|
+++ Most effective
+ Somewhat effective
- Not effective or hardly effective
-- Not effective or partial negative impact
--- Not effective and negative impact
+/- Unsure or some positive and some negative impact
? Do not know because I haven't tried at all or enough
Note: This table is based on my personal experience in treating my trauma- and emotion-fed chronic physical pain. These modalities are presented roughly in the order I tried them.
I haven't tried some of the treatments listed mostly because of cost. But it is also because I've gained considerable improvement through mind-body—based JFB-MFR therapy and because I understand that I have to address my traumas and emotions before I can continue to heal.
In sum, I have found that paying attention to the needs of my mind and body can lead to relief from pain. This approach has worked not only for me but also for many others. (See books by Sarno, Ozanich, barnes, Tavolacci, Velicki, and Brady listed in the mindbody and the personal stories sections under the Resources tab).
A note on the placebo effect: The effectiveness of the treatments that reduce or eliminate pain may indeed be the placebo effect in play. In my opinion, this inherently effective phenomenon is in many cases a good thing, especially if the treatment is non-invasive and inexpensive. The book Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin is a useful resource that looks at the placebo effect in greater detail.
After more than two years of trying various treatments while still suffering in great pain, I finally found some lasting relief. It did not, however, come in the form of one simple pill. After the first nine months, I gained some modest relief from trigger point (TrP) injections. But the pain continued for another year and a half before I finally found the three key missing pieces that have helped me the most so far:
Ultimately, a combination of several treatments has helped me in my quest to live without debilitating or limiting pain. In the table on this page I list various modalities that I have come across in my ten-plus years of healing my trauma- and emotion-fed chronic physical pain. Click on each link for a brief description of what I've tried and which modalities have or haven't worked for me.
As a spoiler, receiving myofascial release therapy developed by John F. Barnes (JFB-MFR) and reading about the mind-body connection (via Dr. John E. Sarno and other authors) have had the greatest positive impact on my healing.