Chronic muscle pain is a long-term condition caused by repetitive muscle movements, forming sensitive areas or trigger points within the muscle. But there’s hope: a number of natural treatment methods can bring relief.
Chronic muscle pain has many causes, including tension, overuse, stress, injuries, infections, and diseases. Usually, it affects a few muscles or a specific body part — for example, delayed-onset muscle soreness, which occurs after working out. Symptoms may include sharp muscle pain, tenderness, and worsening pain.
Short-term muscle pain can typically be relieved after a few days of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE method). Pain-relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen may also help to reduce the pain. But what about chronic (long-term) muscle pain?
What is chronic muscle pain?
Chronic muscle pain, also known as myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), is a long-term pain disorder caused by pressure on trigger points in the muscles. This condition often occurs after repetitive muscle contractions due to repetitive motions or stress-induced tension.
Although most people have experienced tension in their muscles, the pain associated with chronic pain worsens over time. If you or a loved one is suffering from MPS, myotherapists or other similar care providers may help.
Aside from physiotherapy, other treatments such as trigger point injections and pain-relieving medications could aid.
What are the symptoms of chronic muscle pain?
Symptoms of chronic muscle pain may include the following:
- Sharp pain in a particular muscle part
- Muscle pain that worsens over time
- Muscle tenderness
- Inability to sleep properly due to muscle pain
If such symptoms persist, see a doctor to rule out any underlying conditions, especially if you experience pain in the chest or arms as serious conditions, such as a heart attack, can mimic chronic muscle pain.
What causes chronic muscle pain?
When you expose your muscles to overuse and repetitive motions, trigger points alongside tight muscle fibers may develop. A trigger point can cause pain throughout the affected muscle. If the pain persists and worsens, doctors may consider it chronic muscle pain.
Risk factors for chronic muscle pain
Here are some factors that may increase your risk of developing chronic muscle pain:
- Stress And Anxiety: People who are often stressed and anxious might be at risk of developing chronic muscle pain. That’s because they’re more likely to clench their muscles, a strain that makes their muscles more vulnerable to trigger points.
- Injury: Consistent muscle stress and injury may develop trigger points. For example, overusing a strained muscle may form a sensitive area that can turn into a trigger point. Poor body posture and repetitive movements can also put you at risk.
How to manage chronic muscle pain
Below are some techniques that may help you cope with chronic muscle pain:
If the pain is localized to your lower back or neck, a simple stretching exercise might help reduce the pain and relieve stiffness and tension. Check out these easy stretches designed for your back and neck to improve your range of motion:
- low back glute stretch
- neck stretch
Full-body stretching may also help manage chronic muscle pain in other parts of the body. Here are some you might want to try:
- full-body stretches
- tai chi
You may do this for 10-15 minutes daily to minimize the pain. If you feel any discomfort, stop the process and take a rest.
2. Practice meditation and deep breathing
Meditation and deep breathing techniques will help relax your body, relieving muscle pain, stiffness, tension, and tightness. Although there are plenty of ways to meditate, the key is to do it regularly. Ignoring unnecessary thoughts, focusing your mind on your breath, and repeating your mantra can help your body relax.
Yes, you can meditate on your own, but classes and apps can help you to understand the entire process better.
Deep breathing is another technique that can help your body relax. Go to a quiet place, make your body comfortable, and ignore unnecessary thoughts. Then, visualize your navel and breathe into it. Slowly exhale the air out of your abdomen like a balloon that deflates.
3. Minimize stress
Disturbances in your mental health such as stress, anxiety, depression, and anger can make your body more sensitive to pain. Controlling your negative feelings may help relieve your chronic muscle pain.
There are many ways to minimize stress such as:
- Listen to relaxing and soothing music to boost your mood.
- Watch guided relaxation videos.
- Create a series of peaceful images in your mind—guided imagery.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) may also help reduce the stress caused by chronic muscle pain. To do this, contract a specific group of muscles (e.g., thighs) and inhale simultaneously for 5-10 seconds. Relax for 10-20 seconds and proceed to the next muscle group.
4. Produce natural endorphins
Endorphins, also known as happy hormones, are chemicals in your brain that can boost your mood and block pain signals. The best way to produce more endorphins is by exercising.
Exercise is an excellent pain reliever — it improves muscle strength, preventing further injury and pain. It can also help manage a healthy weight, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and maintain optimum blood sugar levels, especially for people with diabetes.
You may ask your doctor to determine which exercise routine is most suitable for you. This is important if you have other health conditions that may worsen due to physical activities.
5. Reduce alcohol intake
Alcohol makes sleep difficult. If you can’t sleep properly, your physical and mental health will be compromised, causing chronic pain to worsen. For this reason, it’d be best to cut back or eliminate alcohol to improve your quality of life.
Plus, getting rid of alcohol from your system helps maintain low blood sugar, optimum blood pressure, and a less-fatty liver. Not just that, but it can also help avoid alcohol-related conditions such as heartburn, indigestion, and headaches. There are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available that can bring similar calming benefits. CBD is also an excellent choice for relaxation.
6. Join a support group
Support groups are groups of people with similar conditions, experiences, and problems in life. Joining a support group will help you feel less alone and have others who can understand your condition better.
Plus, when you join a support group, you’ll get to hear other people’s stories and experiences in dealing with chronic muscle pain. You can learn from their mistakes and use their wisdom to cope with your pain.
Related on Ethos: