Quantification of Myofascial Taut Bands

Published:October 09, 2015DOI:


      • Magnetic resonance elastography is a magnetic resonance imaging technique that can image changes in tissue stiffness.
      • Myofascial taut bands can be imaged and quantified by magnetic resonance.
      • Taut band stiffness is about twice that (11.5 vs 5.8kPa) of adjacent muscle tissue.
      • Stiffness of muscle adjacent to a taut band is similar to that of uninvolved muscles.



      To assess the correlation of clinician-identified myofascial taut bands with their presence and characteristics on magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) imaging.


      Cross-sectional study.


      A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research laboratory.


      A convenience sample of adults (N=65; 45 women, 20 men) identified by skilled musculoskeletal physicians as having upper trapezius myofascial pain–associated taut bands.


      Subjects had their taut bands outlined and were positioned within a 1.5T MRI machine. Shear waves were induced with a pneumatic transducer located over the belly of the involved muscle. Wave propagation was visualized with MRE images across a vibration cycle. Imaging data were assessed independently by 2 skilled MRE interpreters.

      Main Outcome Measures

      The primary outcome measure was the determination of the intra- and interrater reliabilities of MRE taut band identification and their correlation with clinician identification of band presence. Secondary outcomes consisted of the elucidation of the physical characteristics of taut bands and their surrounding muscle tissue.


      MRE intra- and interrater reliability was excellent, with kappa coefficients and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of .86 (.68–1.00) and .93 (.79–1.00), respectively. Stiffness in MRE-identified taut bands was elevated at a mean ± SD of 11.5±2.4kPa and fell to 5.8±0.9kPa in surrounding muscle tissue (P<.001); muscular tone in trapezius muscles without a taut band was relatively uniform at 6.6±2.1kPa. Agreement between the physicians and the MRE raters, however, was relatively poor (63.1%; 95% CI, 50.2%–74.7%).


      Our findings suggest that while clinicians may overestimate, and current MRE techniques may underestimate, the presence of taut bands, these bands do exist, can be assessed quantitatively, and do represent localized areas of increased muscle stiffness.


      List of abbreviations:

      CI (confidence interval), MRE (magnetic resonance elastography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ROI (region of interest)
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