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Aching Muscles and Joints - problems explained and how to gain relief

Updated on September 27, 2016
Pain points in back, shoulders and neck
Pain points in back, shoulders and neck
Elbow joint
Elbow joint
Knee joint
Knee joint
TENS machine for pain relief
TENS machine for pain relief
Hot wax bath for hands, wrists, elbows and feet
Hot wax bath for hands, wrists, elbows and feet

Aching muscles are frequently associated with tension from overuse in physically demanding activities which can also involve other surrounding parts such as tendons, ligaments and tissues. Muscle ache can also be associated with other conditions such as fever, flu and menstrual periods in women whilst joint pain can be a result of many conditions or even injuries. Depending on your life style, muscle and joint pains can sometimes be frequent or recurring and the intensity may cause great discomfort and restriction of movement.

The causes of aching muscles and joints are many and varied and we should look at some of them in more detail.

Cramps

People suffering from cramps may experience painful spasms as their muscles become hard and knotted. Muscle cramps can occur due to many different reasons such as overly strenuous exercise, menstrual cramps, excess lactic acid, too much alcohol, dehydration, hyperthyroidism and some metabolic problems. Pregnancy and kidney failure can also trigger muscle cramps. Though not life-threatening, muscle cramps or spasms are usually alleviated through slow stretching and gentle massage.

Fibromyalgia

One of the most common conditions causing muscle and joint aches is fibromyalgia. The typical symptoms include widespread pain and random tender points in the muscles and joints and also the soft tissues and tendons. Fibromyalgia often occurs with other conditions such as insomnia, headaches, fatigue, anxiety and depression. It can also occur along with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. There are no conclusive reports to determine the cause of this disorder, although studies suggest that fibromyalgia is a common affliction for those who suffered great physical and emotional trauma. Thus it affects the normal flow of bodily systems like metabolism, leading to chronic fatigue. It is not a fatal disease though antidepressants and muscle relaxants are sometimes prescribed and lifestyle changes are recommended.

General muscle aches

Muscle aches and pains are a common fact of life and can involve more than one area of muscle. So called muscle pain also can involve ligaments, tendons, and fascia (the soft tissues that connect muscles), bones, and organs. Pain of this sort is most frequently related to both physical and mental tension, overuse, or muscular injury from exercise or physically-demanding work. In these circumstances, the pain tends to be specific muscle related and starts during or just after the period of activity. Muscle pain also can also be an indicator of other conditions affecting your whole body, such as viral infections and disorders like Lupus that affect connective tissues throughout the body.

Joint pain.

In women joint pain can begin before the menopausal years and become progressively more troublesome during this period. Apparently more than half of all postmenopausal women experience varying degrees of joint pain. It affects knee, elbow and shoulder joints with aching in hips, lower back, or wrists often indicating worsening osteoporosis, kidney weakness or immune system dysfunction. In most people, male or female, the aches and pains are just symptoms of increasing age related wear and tear. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, resulting primarily from a progressive degeneration of cartilage glycosaminoglycans (GAGs).

Injury and other external causes.

Compared with many other animals the human body has weakened throughout our evolutionary period and is rather fragile. We are still faced with all the normal knocks which can result in bruising and strained muscles. The following can all cause muscular aches and pains.

Injury or trauma including sprains and strains, overuse of a muscle and tension or stress.

Drugs and medication

Muscle pain may also be due to specific medications.

ACE inhibitors for heart rhythm and lowering blood pressure

Statins for cholesterol control (pain mainly in neck and shoulders.)

Cocaine - very controlled medication or an illegal drug.

Dermatomyositis - a muscle disease.

Electrolyte imbalances, for instance too little potassium or calcium

Lyme disease - a bacterial infection.

Malaria

Muscle abscess

Poliomyelitis

Rocky Mountain spotted fever - tick borne bacteria mainly in the Americas.

Trichinosis (roundworm)

Lupus disease

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Polymyositis

Rhabdomyolysis

Pain relief and improve mobility.

When coping with general muscle and joint aches use proprietary, over the counter, pain killers such as combined aspirin/paracetamol or ibuprofen. However, this standard drug therapy, while suppressing pain and inflammation, has been found to promote the progression of the arthritic disease process by inhibiting GAG (glycosaminoglycan) synthesis and cartilage repair, while, at the same time, accelerating cartilage destruction. This, of course, is very undesirable and in addition, these drugs may stimulate osteoporosis and suppress the immune system. For this reason a natural approach to pain relief would be a great advantage.

For joints apply an ice-pack, to the area, for about 20 minutes at a time, repeating every 2 or 3 hours, during the first 24 - 72 hours which will reduce pain and inflammation. After that, gentle heat using a wheat-bag often feels more soothing. Muscle aches from overuse and fibromyalgia often respond well to massage (see essential oils formula below). Gentle stretching exercises after a long rest period are also helpful.

Once a particular painful episode is over regular non-impact exercise can help restore proper muscle tone. Walking, cycling, and swimming are good aerobic activities to try. A physical therapist can teach you stretching, toning, and aerobic exercises to feel better and stay pain-free. Begin slowly and increase workouts gradually, but do not overdo this otherwise you will be back to square one.

Plenty of good restful sleep is vitally important which may help to reduce stress. Ensure that your bedroom is a restful place with gentle lighting, pure ventilation with perhaps some Lavender or Rose Oil in the background. Your bed must be comfortable with a quality supportive mattress and pillows together with a light but warm duvet. Sleeping tablets are never a good idea as often they will leave you feeling unrested and slightly stressed. The use of a natural hormone Melatonin will often give a more relaxed and natural rest. However, talk to your doctor about any possible reactions with existing medication. Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to help you sleep and relax and Reiki will help the body to self-heal and allow restful sleep.

If home measures aren't working, your doctor may prescribe medication or physical therapy, or refer you to a specialized pain clinic. He/she will know if your pain is part of a particular disease or ailment and can tailor your treatment accordingly.

It is not wise to ignore these aches and pains. Early treatment can often bring about a cure and prevent further development of arthritis. An injection of cortisone into an acutely affected joint will sometimes offer prompt relief, but this may harm the immune system or may not work at all. The same may be said of gold injections.

Natural pain relief and remedies

Glucosamine Sulphate (GLS): It has been found that this supplement may offer effective treatment by acting as a building block for GAGs (glycosaminoglycan’s), promoting the incorporation of sulphur into cartilage. Numerous clinical trials have found GLS produces better results than standard drug therapy in the treatment of arthritis and pain in weight-bearing joints. It appears the sulphur in GLS may be essential to the beneficial effects noted. Sulphur is an essential nutrient for joint tissue where it functions in the stabilization of the connective tissue matrix of cartilage, tendons and ligaments. The standard dose for glucosamine sulphate is 500 mg three times per day. Obese individuals may need higher dosages based on their body weight (20 mg/kg body weight/day), but beware of overdosing and seek medical advice if at all uncertain.

Anti-inflammatory herbs: There are herbs rich in salicylates and/or sterols that may be used just as effectively as their ethical drug counterpart’s, aspirin and cortisone, for pain relief and as anti-inflammatories. Unlike aspirin and cortisone, the herbs don’t produce side effects when used carefully. Also unlike drugs, herbs provide bone-building minerals, immune-strengthening micronutrients, and endocrine-nourishing glycosides.

Salicylates found in the bark, buds and leaves of willows, birches, true wintergreen, poplars, and black haw have been used for centuries to help ease inflammatory pain.

Sterols are fatty substances composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Bile, sex and adrenal hormones and even vitamin D contain sterol. Sterols found in the roots of many plants such as wild yam, sarsaparilla, ginseng (Panax), black cohosh, pine, poke and devil’s club have been found to help ease sore joints.

CAUTION: Although mentioned on other sites I do not recommend the use of either Poke root or poke berry seeds which are highly toxic and need specialist handling.

Phytosterols are found only in plants. Interestingly, phytosterols seem to have some health-promoting effects.

Peruvian Bark contains alkaloids including quinine and has been found very useful in prevention of leg cramps, especially at night. Leg cramps in postmenopausal women are often reported by practitioners. The main causes have been found to be the use of tobacco and inactivity of the legs.

Yellow dock root: For ‘restless’ legs (often a symptom of anemia), try 10-20 drops of tincture daily.

Alginates from brown seaweed or kelp are used to treat painful joints resulting from strontium, barium, cadmium and radium poisoning. Alginates bind tightly to these toxins allowing them to pass harmlessly out of the body, Alginate is a good treatment for the unlikely named "ouch-ouch" disease which is found in Japan and the far east and is due to poisoning by cadmium-containing water used to irrigate rice fields resulting in painful joints.

Black currant bud macerate is an anti-inflammatory used for postmenopausal women with arthritis, rheumatism, allergies, headaches, and persistent hot flushes. A 30-50 drop dose may be used up to three times a day.

In addition to herbal remedies, visualisation, swimming or floating in warm water, moxibustion or acupuncture may help greatly for aching joints. Acupuncture is a highly effective method of pain relief and healing although a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine is cheaply available and surprisingly efficient.

For pain, particularly rheumatic pain, in the hands, wrists, elbows and feet a great deal of relief can be gained from the use of a hot wax bath therapy. Great care should be taken with the use of hot wax to avoid burns and some excellent kits are available.

Food and Diet

Certain schools of thought feel that some dietary changes can help with pain or inflammation. It is suggested that you reduce or eliminate the following;

Sugar, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant/aubergine, peppers, citrus fruit, with the exception of lemon and grapefruit, dairy products, with the exception of plain yogurt with active culture, meat including beef, pork, and lamb (other sources of protein such as venison, chicken, fish and beans are less likely to promote inflammation), Soya, Rapeseed or corn vegetable oils (continue using olive oil and the essential fatty acids flax seed, sesame, pumpkin, borage, sunflower oils), MSG (monosodium gluconate) and alcohol (except Red Wine which is beneficial).

Garden sage leaf infusion or tincture is said to prevent joint aches and improve circulation. Note: Do not use excessively or if you have dry mouth or very dry vaginal tissues.

Essential fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. A spoonful of fresh flax seed or evening primrose oil several times a day may relieve pain within a few days, and regular use helps prevent aching joints.

Ginger baths, soaks, and compresses may bring soothing, warm relief to sore and aching joints.

Massage with essential oils:

Make up an oil blend using the following essential oils:

Frankincense, Clove, Yarrow

Eucalyptus, Ginger, Jasmine

Black Pepper, Thyme, Vetivert

Lavender, Rosemary, Roman Camomile

10 drops of each in a wide mouth mixing bottle, add 2 teaspoons of Wheatgerm oil (as a preservative) and top off with Rapeseed Oil.( Instead of Rapeseed Oil which is relatively cheap but leaves an oily film, I would suggest distilled Coconut Oil which is a “disappearing” oil.) If your skin is dry or in poor condition you should use Argan oil or Rosehip oil.

With all essential oils (except Lavender) care should be taken not to apply it to broken skin. In the case of poor skin or scarring it would be beneficial to add 4 teaspoons of Rosehip Oil.

Use as massage oil. Do not take internally.

This may seem an unusually large number of different oils but each has a specific painkilling or relaxing effect either individually or in combination with each other.

For dietary and herbal help in preventing muscle spasm and tension please look at my hub: Sciatica-relief-using-essential-oil

In the event of an allergic or unusual reaction, show the above formulation to a medical practitioner.

Do you suffer from aches and pains and how do you treat them

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© 2012 Peter Geekie

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    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Peanutritious,

      Yes I was away in the middle of Sherwood Forest last week and it was pretty much as you described it. I have got a new off-road wheelchair so I can now be comfortable as well as wet and cold. These oils work well so a nice massage in front of a cracking log fire and the troubles just melt away.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Hi Peter, I went camping this weekend and woke up in the middle of the night with a sore hip. I think I slept in a weird position or something. I think I need to buy these oils! My friend made me a comfry mix which i'm going to use twice a day. The weekend certainly was wet and windy and I, like a fool was sleeping in a tent! Great hub and voted up.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Thelma - I must firstly apologise for the delay in replying to your kind comments. Oils used for aching muscles always works for me rather than these painkilling gels.

      Weekend coming up is wet and windy - just like English spring-time.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Hi! I am the first one, yepeee! Thanks for sharing your knowledge here in HubPages. I use some of the said essential oils above for my aromatherapy massage. Have a lovely weekend!