MRE could provide a definitive diagnosis for people with muscle pain, Mayo Clinic study shows

November 29, 2007

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- An estimated nine million men and women in the United States live with myofascial pain syndrome, a condition marked by pain that permeates muscles in the neck, back and shoulders. The condition is difficult to diagnose and not entirely understood, but research studies indicate that a new imaging technology developed at Mayo Clinic holds promise for a definitive diagnosis and, perhaps eventually, new treatments for people who have the syndrome.

A Mayo Clinic study published in the November issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation shows that magnetic resonance elastography, or MRE, can provide images of the affected muscle with clarity and insight not possible with magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. While an MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create clear and detailed cross-sectional images of the body's internal tissues and organs, an MRE measures the elasticity of tissue as it is gently vibrated.

"Additional research is necessary, but our findings in this pilot study provide a strong basis to suspect that MRE technology can identify changes in muscle tone and stiffness that could previously only be identified by physical examination by a physician or a therapist," says Jeffrey Basford, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation and an author of the study. "Prior to these findings, we did not have a good diagnostic test for myofascial pain syndrome."

An MRE employs standard MRI equipment with a few modifications, and works by measuring the wavelength of vibrations sent through the tissues. A vibrating metal plate is placed on the patient causing muscles to contract and stiffen. When this occurs, researchers can measure the elasticity of muscles and detect abnormal hardening of tissues, which in myofasical pain syndrome can cause pain.

The MRE technique is being applied to the diagnosis of other diseases, such as liver disease (http://discoverysedge.mayo.edu/de07-1-biotech-ehman/) and could also be used to diagnose breast cancer and other tumors, which tend to be harder than the surrounding normal tissue.

Myofascial pain syndrome is sometimes confused with fibromyalgia, but the two 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 muscle that, when pressed, triggers a reproducible pattern of referred pain.

"In the past, myofasical pain syndrome has been very difficult to diagnose. These new findings may be the next step for a diagnosis and in the future may help to refine treatment options," Dr. Basford says.

In some chronic cases of myofascial pain, combinations of physical therapy and trigger point injections are needed to relieve pain. In addition, the condition is sometimes treated with the "spray and stretch" technique, which involves spraying the muscle and trigger point with a coolant and then slowly stretching the muscle.
-end-
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Other Mayo Clinic collaborators include Kai-Nan An, Ph.D.; Sabine Bensamoun, Ph.D.; Qingshan Chen; and Jeffrey Thompson, M.D.

To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.

Mayo Clinic

Related Pain Articles from Brightsurf:

Pain researchers get a common language to describe pain
Pain researchers around the world have agreed to classify pain in the mouth, jaw and face according to the same system.

It's not just a pain in the head -- facial pain can be a symptom of headaches too
A new study finds that up to 10% of people with headaches also have facial pain.

New opioid speeds up recovery without increasing pain sensitivity or risk of chronic pain
A new type of non-addictive opioid developed by researchers at Tulane University and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine without increasing pain sensitivity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The insular cortex processes pain and drives learning from pain
Neuroscientists at EPFL have discovered an area of the brain, the insular cortex, that processes painful experiences and thereby drives learning from aversive events.

Pain, pain go away: new tools improve students' experience of school-based vaccines
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have teamed up with educators, public health practitioners and grade seven students in Ontario to develop and implement a new approach to delivering school-based vaccines that improves student experience.

Pain sensitization increases risk of persistent knee pain
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) School of Rehabilitation and Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont Research Centre (CRHMR) in collaboration with researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away
A new study by researchers in Montreal and Boston looks at the role that pain plays in osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 300 million adults worldwide.

Pain disruption therapy treats source of chronic back pain
People with treatment-resistant back pain may get significant and lasting relief with dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation therapy, an innovative treatment that short-circuits pain, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2018 annual meeting.

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology.

Peripheral nerve block provides some with long-lasting pain relief for severe facial pain
A new study has shown that use of peripheral nerve blocks in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) may produce long-term pain relief.

Read More: Pain News and Pain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.