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Health Q&A on leg pain

12:52 PM, Sep. 12, 2013  |  Comments
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Today's expert is Becky Czechanski, a physical therapist with ThedaCare Orthopedics Plus.

Q: I exercise regularly and recently began having leg pain that wouldn't go away. I saw my doctor and she called it myofascial pain. Can you explain what it is and what I can do about it?

A: Myofascial pain is the medical diagnosis of severe muscle pain. It's a chronic condition and can involve either a single muscle or an entire muscle group such as in your leg. Unlike other kinds of muscle pain, it doesn't get better and may actually get worse over time.

Myofascial pain develops from either a muscle injury or excessive strain on a muscle group, tendon or ligament. Repetitive activities from either work or a hobby, such as running, also can lead to the injury. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint the trigger point for the pain since it may radiate into neighboring muscle groups.

Physical therapy and medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or acetaminophen are the best way to treat myofascial pain. If you meet with a physical therapist, he or she will focus on the source of the pain and develop exercises to make that area stronger as well as target areas of tightness. Sometimes, people are wary of physical therapy since they aren't too sure what it is.

During therapy, you'll be guided through a mixture of stretching, strengthening exercises and pain relief exercises. You'll work on the exercises during your session and you may also be given some exercises to do at home to make the area stronger. The physical therapist may also do some light massaging of the muscles to help relieve the pain.

If the pain is severe and not responding to physical therapy, your doctor may suggest injecting a numbing drug or steroid into the source of the pain - the trigger point - to help provide relief.

While most people will experience muscle pain at some point, the big difference with myofascial pain is that it doesn't go away with rest and home remedies. If muscle pain persists or is keeping you up at night, it's important to see a doctor to see if you have myofascial pain and begin a treatment plan.

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