Original article| Volume 89, ISSUE 1, P16-23, January 2008

Biochemicals Associated With Pain and Inflammation are Elevated in Sites Near to and Remote From Active Myofascial Trigger Points


      Shah JP, Danoff JV, Desai MJ, Parikh S, Nakamura LY, Phillips TM, Gerber LH. Biochemicals associated with pain and inflammation are elevated in sites near to and remote from active myofascial trigger points.


      To investigate the biochemical milieu of the upper trapezius muscle in subjects with active, latent, or absent myofascial trigger points (MTPs) and to contrast this with that of the noninvolved gastrocnemius muscle.


      We used a microanalytic technique, including needle insertions at standardized locations in subjects identified as active (having neck pain and MTP), latent (no neck pain but with MTP), or normal (no neck pain, no MTP). We followed a predetermined sampling schedule; first in the trapezius muscle and then in normal gastrocnemius muscle, to measure pH, bradykinin, substance P, calcitonin gene-related peptide, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1β (IL-1β), IL-6, IL-8, serotonin, and norepinephrine, using immunocapillary electrophoresis and capillary electrochromatography. Pressure algometry was obtained. We compared analyte concentrations among groups with 2-way repeated-measures analysis of variance.


      A biomedical research facility.


      Nine healthy volunteer subjects.


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Preselected analyte concentrations.


      Within the trapezius muscle, concentrations for all analytes were higher in active subjects than in latent or normal subjects (P<.002); pH was lower (P<.03). At needle insertion, analyte concentrations in the trapezius for the active group were always higher (pH not different) than concentrations in the gastrocnemius muscle. At all times within the gastrocnemius, the active group had higher concentrations of all analytes than did subjects in the latent and normal groups (P<.05); pH was lower (P<.01).


      We have shown the feasibility of continuous, in vivo recovery of small molecules from soft tissue without harmful effects. Subjects with active MTPs in the trapezius muscle have a biochemical milieu of selected inflammatory mediators, neuropeptides, cytokines, and catecholamines different from subjects with latent or absent MTPs in their trapezius. These concentrations also differ quantitatively from a remote, uninvolved site in the gastrocnemius muscle. The milieu of the gastrocnemius in subjects with active MTPs in the trapezius differs from subjects without active MTPs.

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      Linked Article

      • New Views of Myofascial Trigger Points: Etiology and Diagnosis
        Archives of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationVol. 89Issue 1
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          Simons DG. New views of myofascial trigger points: etiology and diagnosis. Two studies appearing in Archives, one by Shah and colleagues and another one by Chen and colleagues, present groundbreaking findings that can reduce some of the controversy surrounding myofascial trigger points (MTPs). Both author groups recognize the ubiquity of this disease and the importance to patients of health care professionals becoming better acquainted with the cause and identification of MTPs. The integrated hypothesis is the most credible and most complete proposed etiology of MTPs.
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