The Clinical Problem

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is one of the most common forms of chronic pain that affects Canadians. It has a prevalence among adults of 18.9% in general medicine and up to 85% in pain management centres. It is estimated to cost $60 Billion annually and this figure will become larger since the elderly (age 65+) are the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population. Currently, the diagnosis of MPS is made clinically and relies upon the detection of the trigger point by palpation. The trigger point is a localized tender spot within the muscle that causes pain and feels like a knot. Clinical detection of this trigger point by palpation is often done poorly and results in many patients being misdiagnosed.


Our research group is working on improving the detection of the trigger point and therefore, improving the diagnosis of MPS. In the future our goal is to make the diagnosis of many chronic pain conditions specific and reliable. We would do this by combining the clinical exam with medical imaging, such as ultrasound and confirming our results with biomarkers from the patients blood that will give us a better understanding of what condition the patient is suffering form. In addition, we are working on elucidating the mechanisms of pain behind certain musculoskeletal conditions and how these conditions originate and remain chronic.

Research Goals and Objectives

  1. Our primary goal is to enhance the detection of the trigger point using a new method, ultrasound. This involves research into the clinical and ultrasound characteristics of the trigger point.
  2. Currently, the diagnostic criteria for MPS is often confused with other chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. We want to enhance the current diagnostic criteria for MPS while minimizing the misdiagnosis of chronic pain conditions.
  3. Study the blood biomarkers of patients with MPS and fibromyalgia in order to identify differences, which will aid in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.
  4. Clarifying the pathophysiology of the trigger point, and mechanisms to explain the transition from acute to chronic pain. This involves the study of central sensitization.

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