Are Tender Point Injections Beneficial? The Role of Muscular Pain Mediators in Fibromyalgia

Source: Curr Pharm Des. 2006;12(1):23-7.

By R. Staud

Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, University of Florida, PO Box 100221, Gainesville, FL 32610-0221, USA.

Characteristic symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome (FM) include widespread pain, fatigue, sleep abnormalities, and distress. FM patients show psychophysical evidence for mechanical, thermal, and electrical hyperalgesia.

To fulfill FM criteria, the mechanical hyperalgesia needs to be widespread and present in at least 11 out of 18 well-defined body areas (tender points). Peripheral and central abnormalities of nociception have been described in FM and these changes may be relevant for the increased pain experienced by these patients.

Important nociceptor systems in the skin and muscle seem to undergo profound changes in FM patients by yet unknown mechanisms. These changes may result from the release of algesic substances after muscle or other soft tissue injury. These pain mediators can sensitize important nociceptor systems, including the transient receptor potential channel, vanilloid subfamily member 1 (TRPV1), acid sensing ion channel (ASIC) receptors, and purino-receptors (P2X3).

Subsequently, tissue mediators of inflammation and nerve growth factors can excite these receptors and cause substantial changes in pain sensitivity. FM pain is widespread and does not seem to be restricted to tender points (TP).

It frequently comprises multiple areas of deep tissue pain (trigger points) with adjacent much larger areas of referred pain. Analgesia of areas of extensive nociceptive input has been found to provide often long lasting local as well as general pain relief.

Thus, interventions aimed at reducing local FM pain seem to be effective but need to focus less on tender points but more on trigger points (TrP) and other body areas of heightened pain and inflammation.

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