Ever had unpleasant, nagging sensations in your muscles? Well, you are not alone! Between 60% – 85% of the world’s population experiences muscular pain daily. Studies suggest that these pain are mainly non-specific and can very rarely be localised to pin-point. Technically speaking, pain is an unpleasant sensory or emotional response to actual or potential tissue damage. While we will speak more on muscle pain treatment, first let’s get to know the basics of muscular pain.
Origins of Pain
The origin of pain depends upon the characteristics of the injured tissue. The sources of pain may be as follows:
This pain arises due to pathological tissue damage at the bone or joints. It may arise due to an injury to the bursae, ligaments, or tendons that surround the joint.
Muscle pain is the most common kind of ailment. It arises out of abnormal loading of muscular tissue. Overuse of muscles due to excessive physical activity may also lead to pain.
This pain arises out of irritation of nerves at their roots or any location throughout their course. It may also be caused due to the damage or disease that affects the somatosensory nervous system.
Psychological problems lead the person to believe they have pain with no underlying pathology at the site of pain (inorganic pain). It may start because of emotional stress before manifesting in the body as physical pain.
Muscle Pain Causes
Muscular pain could be the result of abnormal loading on normal tissue structure or normal loading on abnormal tissues. Specifically felt in a particular area, muscular pains may also happen due to stress, tension, overuse or minor but repetitive trauma.
Generalised muscle pain is mainly the result of systemic conditions like connective tissue diseases (e.g. fibromyalgia, polymyositis, myofascial pain syndrome, etc.), illness, fever or effect of medications.
Hyperirritable spots can develop within the muscle, commonly known as trigger points. They can appear in the neck, upper back, calf and thigh region. These trigger points are generally palpable nodules and which may elicit pain on pressure.
Muscular pains could mainly be arising due to straining of a muscle, soreness due to overactivity, cramping due to sustained overwork and muscle tears.
Pain caused by muscle tear is often experienced at the moment of the damage and rarely post the incidence. Muscle tear is almost invariably accompanied by an inability to perform the action done by the muscle.
Symptoms of Muscle Pain
- Type: Dull aching type of pain, localised or spreading to the nearby area.
- Onset of pain: depends on the underlying cause.
- Aggravating factors: strong contraction, sudden excessive stretch, more than desirable loading of muscle, sustained postures, wrong posture, lifting of heavyweight, fatigue, and dehydration.
- Relieving factors: Rest, hot and cold fomentation.
- Swelling: Can be seen by the naked eye in case of superficial muscles or severe muscle tears.
- Comparison to the opposite side is essential. In some cases, investigations like ultrasound can reveal swelling.
- Abnormal contour: When the muscle tear is of higher grade, an abnormal contour (bulge, nodule, taut band, discontinuity in the muscle) of the muscle tissue is evident in comparison to the uninjured side. If the tear or injury is long-standing, muscle fibres shrink in size and the muscle shape and size also reduces.
- Skin changes: If the muscle undergoes a direct blow or direct trauma, the red-bluish-black discolouration may also be noticeable. Moreover, the skin temperature can also be slightly higher in comparison to other areas in the acute stage of injury.
- Mobility and Strength: Muscle flexibility and force of contraction will be compromised post-injury.
Pain is often used as an indicator by athletes and medical professionals alike. Muscle pain is associated with fatigue, high resting heart rate, and irritability. In fact, poor performance is often the most reliable indicator of overtraining.
Why do I experience Muscle Pain?
If you have muscle pain in a specified location with no incident trauma or fall or accident to the same area, you are most likely the victim of faulty postures and muscular imbalances.
Muscular imbalance is mainly seen when some muscles are underutilised, and the muscles performing the opposite action are overburdened trying to compensate for their inefficient counterparts.
This is where physiotherapists help you! They aid to identify these imbalances and correct them before they land you into a more severe injury.
Muscle Pain Treatment
Treatment for the pain of the muscular origin differs according to the cause, severity, location and chronicity. Considering the extent of muscle injury is also important when deciding the plan of action.
In case of muscle pull or tear, in the acute phase: Icing, optimal protective loading, mild stretching, taping, compression and elevation of the area is beneficial for a faster recovery.
In physiotherapy, various electrotherapy modalities like ultrasound and therapeutic currents can be helpful for pain relief and quicker recovery.
Moreover, one may have to resort to immobilisation and surgery in extreme cases like a complete rupture of the muscle.
Gradually loading and stretching the muscle under supervision of the physiotherapist is critical to avoid weakness (atrophy: shrinking of muscles), tightness and re-injury.
Immobilisation and rest period should be optimal to avoid long term weakness of the structure, which may increase the injury risk to the same or connecting structures.
Muscular cramps recover faster. Adequate stretching and hydration can help to reduce the symptoms. Acute muscle spasms respond well to hot and cold therapy, mild stretching and relaxation techniques.
Persistent muscle spasm needs a good stretching program and soft tissue release (manually or with the help of modality like shockwave). Correcting postural faults and muscle imbalances, and following ergonomic modifications is advisory to recover completely.
Similarly, treating the underlying cause of muscle spasm is also necessary to avoid worsening or recurrent episodes.
Professional Expert treatment: Rehab Station
Muscle injury is fully recoverable and preventable… The physiotherapists at REHAB STATION are experts at tackling muscle injuries and can guide you well in preventing them.
REHAB STATION is a sport and musculoskeletal centric sports physiotherapy lab, situated in the heart of Pune city. We, the physiotherapists at REHAB STATION, strive to ensure that we live up to the statement that defines an ideal sports physiotherapist.
“Prevention is better than cure” is the least applied phrase in the modern world. REHAB STATION aims at spreading awareness regarding Preventive Rehabilitation.
We, as sports physiotherapists, can help you prevent injury and overcome the plateau in your performance!
Frequently Asked Questions
Dull aching type of pain, localised or spreading to the nearby area. You will feel them while moving or resting. The swelling would also occur in case of superficial muscles or severe muscle tears.
Recovery from muscle pain depends on the extent, area and severity of the injury. Early injury management also plays a key role in the duration of recovery. Generally, muscle injury recovers within a week only if treated appropriately.
Relieving muscle pain includes the following techniques:
providing optimal protective loading,
elevation of the area (for a faster recovery).
In physiotherapy, various electrotherapy modalities like ultrasound and therapeutic currents are also beneficial for pain relief and quicker recovery.