Dealing with pain in your body is never fun. Whether in your back, neck or shoulders, or your glutes, calves or hamstrings, muscle pain can cause you stress and interfere with your day to day life. While most people experience muscle pain from time to time, myofascial pain syndrome is an ongoing or longer-lasting pain that may be coupled with other symptoms like tension headaches, fatigue, and anxiety or depression. If you’re wondering how to deal with this chronic pain, take a look at these stretches and exercises for myofascial pain syndrome.
What Is Myofascial Pain Syndrome?
Myofascial pain syndrome is a common chronic pain disorder that affects the musculoskeletal system. It arises from inflammation in your muscles or fascia (the thin, connective tissue that surrounds your muscles), and typically occurs in one specific area. In some cases it can affect multiple areas, but is usually on the same side of your body. Pressure on sensitive points in your muscles (trigger points) causes pain in the muscle and sometimes in what seems to be an unrelated part of your body. When this pain persists and worsens, it’s called myofascial pain syndrome.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
- Deep, aching pain in a muscle
- Pain that persists or worsens
- Muscle that’s sensitive or tender when touched
- Trigger points/muscle knots that cause pain when touched (and sometimes when not touched)
- Weak muscles
- Reduced range of motion
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
Potential side effects can also include:
What Causes Myofascial Pain Syndrome?
- Muscle Injury or continual muscle stress
- Repetitive motions, such as typing at a laptop or hammering a nail
- Poor posture
- Stress and anxiety
- Sitting for a long time (especially in an awkward position)
- Lack of exercise or movement
3 Best Stretches for Myofascial Pain Syndrome
1. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Hamstring pain is common in athletes and people who workout a lot. A hamstring injury often happens during sudden, powerful movements, such as sprinting, lunging, or jumping that overstretch your tendons or muscles.
The standing hamstring stretch will help target the area for relief. Stand up straight with your right heel resting on a yoga block or stool in front of you. Keep your knee straight and reach both arms up to help keep your back straight. Bend forward slightly from the hips, and feel the stretch in your hamstring behind your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times. Then repeat with the other leg.
2. Seated Figure Four for Glutes
Pain in your glutes is a common issue for people who work out regularly or sit at a desk all day. The seated figure four stretch will help relieve pain and increase flexibility of your glutes and your lateral hip rotators.
Sit up tall in a chair with both feet planted on the ground, hip distance apart. Keep your core engaged and your shoulders back. Cross your right leg over your left thigh, placing the outside of your right shin just above your left knee. Lightly place your right hand on top of your right thigh to open and stretch the knee. If you want a deeper stretch, tip forward from the hip and lean over your thighs, keeping your torso straight as you do so.
3. Seated Shoulder Squeeze
Shoulder pain is super common due to poor posture and hunching over our devices. We need our shoulders for so many everyday activities from walking the dog, to carrying groceries, to pushing and pulling doors.
The seated shoulder squeeze is a great stretch. Sit on the floor, a stability ball, or a chair with your knees bent and your feet flat (you can sit cross legged if you’re on the floor). Clasp your hands together behind your lower back. Straighten your arms while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat five to 10 times.
3 Best Exercises for Myofascial Pain Syndrome
1. Tennis Ball Calf Exercise
Tight calves are common for runners, cyclists, and hikers. To get relief, sit on the ground with one leg stretched in front of you and the other bent at 90 degrees. Place a tennis ball under the calf of the straight leg and rest your hands by your hips. Put weight into your hands and gently move your body forward and back, rolling the muscle over the ball. You can also try small circles. Switch legs and repeat.
2. Foam Roller Upper Back Exercise
If you’re experiencing upper back pain, you’re not alone. Poor posture and stress can create lots of tension in the upper back, resulting in chronic pain. You’ll need a foam roller for this exercise. Lie on your back with the foam roller positioned underneath your upper back. Your knees should be bent with your feet flat on the floor and your arms by your side or crossed over your chest. Engage your core and lift yourself into a shallow bridge position. Slowly roll up and down between your lower neck and mid back, stopping at the tight areas along the way. Repeat for 30 seconds.
3. Hip Flexor Exercise (Tennis Ball or Foam Roller)
Hip flexor pain can be due to exercise like running, or due to a lack of exercise and movement. If you’re experiencing pain at the front of your hips, get out your tennis ball or foam roller for some relief.
Lay on the ground facing downward and place the tennis ball or foam roller under your hip bone, with your legs straight out behind you. Support your weight with bent elbows and roll the body back and forth over the ball or roller. If you’re using a ball, you can also do small circles.
If you’re experiencing pain in your muscles, we hope these stretches and exercises help you find some much-needed relief.
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