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Self-Massage with Home Exercise as Treatment for Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome

Posted by Stuart Hinds on

Therapists have an important role to play in ensuring that their clients integrate self help, especially for longer term chronic issues such as MPDS

Activities of daily living are an important aspect for each individual. Having a routine of choice and practice creates a sense of wellness and independence. Any disturbances in the normal daily activities often results in distress for the individual. To those affected with Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome (MPDS), these disruptions are normal but no less alarming.

What Is MPDS?

Like fibromyalgia, Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome (MPDS) is a painful condition of the skeletal muscles. Many people suffer with both fibromyalgia and myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome (termed, FMS/MPS Complex) at the same time. One interesting difference between FMS and MPDS is that more women than men have FMS, but MPDS affects men and women in equal numbers. Usually, when we refer to MPDS, we are referring to the muscles of mastication as well as the neck and shoulder muscles. However, this doesn't mean that other skeletal muscles aren't affected for they may be. But the muscles of mastication and the neck and shoulder muscles seem to be most commonly involved. Some researcher feel that MPDS may be a minor or localized type of fibromyalgia.

Trigger Point Therapy - Self Management

Although, analgesics can be easier to provide to those with MPDS in the home setting, self management of any condition can promote independence. Self-massage combined with home exercise is a great self-management method for those with MPDS.

A study published in 2015 noted the benefits of combination therapy in the treatment of MPDS, specifically with regard to self-massage combined with home exercise. Sixty three subjects were divided into two groups including the experimental group (32 subjects) and the control group (31 subjects). All of the subjects received  physical modalities as primary treatment of MPDS. The experimental group received an addition of self-massage with home exercise whereas the control group did not. Self-massage was done by the patients with the help of an instructor, wherein they utilized the use of a baseball. This was used to apply pressure in a rolling motion through the trigger points.

The home exercise consisted of motions which helped stretch the muscles near the trigger points. The results were in favor to the experimental group. They were in less pain and could perform activities of daily living better than those in the control group.



So what does this mean for self management?

Considering the benefits that were attained in the short study, it's fair to surmise that the benefits of self help could be even greater if the treatment is continued in the long-term. There is no denying the effectiveness of the use of self-massage with home exercises in addition to physical modalities, but it may need further studies in order to verify the total effectiveness of the treatment for long-term results.

For patients, the effect of this treatment may be short-term but the ability to cope and self-manage their condition can only be beneficial. Gaining a sense of independence from these types of conditions is always vitally important for mental wellbeing. The ability to perform daily tasks and having a normal day could be a priceless gift.

Self Help Combined with Trigger Point Therapy

In all my years practicing trigger point therapy, I've never personally met a therapist who hasn't seen the improved effects in those clients who combine self help (massage, strengthening, stretching) with their time on the therapists table. 

Some therapists are known to shy away from promoting self care, and they perhaps even see it as a threat to their livelihoods. It's simply not the case. Our overriding responsibility is to help our clients improve their state of health, and the more effectively we do this, the more clients we attract. Encouraging clients to self help between treatments with massage tools, balls, or whatever they can safely get their hands on, together with correctly prescribed stretching and strengthening exercises will, in our experience, have a profound effect on the quality of life for those with long term pain syndromes, and will help accelerate recovery for those who come to us with the more common, and shorter term, musculoskeletal injuries.


Yuan-Chi Chan, Tzyy-Jiuan Wang, Cheng-Chiang Chang, Lian-Cheng Chen, Heng-Yi Chu, Shiou-Ping Lin, and Shin-Tsu Chang. Short-term effects of self-massage combined with home exercise on pain, daily activity, and autonomic function in patients with myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Jan: 27(1): 217-221. Referred from

This blog and video is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. Do not attempt to replicate these techniques unless they fall within your professional scope of practice.



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