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Clin J Pain. 2010 May;26(4):320-5. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3181c4904a.

Incidence of myofascial pain syndrome in breast cancer surgery: a prospective study.

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  • 1Alcalá de Henares University, Madrid, Spain.



Pain after breast cancer therapy is a recognized complication found to have an adverse impact on patient's quality of life, increasing psychosocial distress. In recent years, case reports about myofascial pain syndrome are emerging in thoracic surgery as a cause of postsurgery pain. Myofascial pain syndrome is a regional pain syndrome characterized by myofascial trigger points in palpable taut bands of skeletal muscle that refers pain a distance, and that can cause distant motor and autonomic effects.


The objective of this study was to assess the incidence of myofascial pain syndrome prospectively 12 months after breast cancer surgery.


Each participant was assessed preoperatively, postoperatively between day 3 and day 5, and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery. A physical therapist, expert in the diagnosis of myofascial pain syndrome, performed follow-up assessments. Pain descriptions by the patients and pain pattern drawings in body forms guided the physical examination. The patients were not given any information concerning myofascial pain or other muscle pain syndromes.


One year follow-up was completed by 116 women. Of these, 52 women developed myofascial pain syndrome (44.8%, 95% confidence interval: 35.6, 54.3).


Myofascial pain syndrome is a common source of pain in women undergoing breast cancer surgery that includes axillary lymph node dissection at least during the first year after surgery. Myofascial pain syndrome is one potential cause of chronic pain in breast cancer survivors who have undergone this kind of surgery.

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