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Myofascial pain and Fibromyalgia are sometimes confused for each other, but the conditions are clinically different. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition typically characterized by widespread pain in muscles, ligaments, and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points. Myofascial pain syndrome, is a more localized pain that is associated with trigger point tenderness. A trigger point is a small lump in a band of tight muscles that, when pressed, triggers a reproducible pattern of referred pain.

Research studies at the Mayo Clinic show that a new imaging technology holds promise for a definitive diagnosis of myofascial and, perhaps eventually, new treatments for people who have the syndrome.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create clear and detailed cross-sectional images of the body’s internal tissues and organs. The method developed by the Mayo Clinic researchers is called magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), which uses standard MRI equipment with a few modifications.

An MRE involves placing a vibrating metal plate on the patient, which causes their muscles to contract and stiffen. When the muscles contract and stiffen the elasticity of muscles can be measured as well as detection of abnormal hardening of tissues, which in myofascial pain syndrome can cause pain.

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