All of the muscle groups that cause me the most grief are in my hands, arms, neck, and head. It is amazing to me that too much typing or texting can lead to rotator cuff soreness and pain. Lifting heavy towels or large loads of laundry atop regularly throwing Frisbees and balls to my puppy can wear out my shoulders, easily building toward a headache if I am not careful.
Headaches are at the top of my list of the most debilitating and the potentially most averted of all pains I experience. The headaches I experience from pulled shoulder muscles usually last two days. Over the years, I have asked health professionals and researched all that I can for ways to alleviate the pain and stop it from happening.
I have traced much of the source to bending down and picking up heavy items (lifting items above my head is no longer possible), typing and texting for extended periods of time, and movements that overextend these muscles (for example, throwing a ball). I have narrowed it down to three exercises that are easy to remember, can be done almost anywhere and have been most effective for me.
REDUCE THE PAIN
Try these strategies for coping.
- Get moving. A recent Annals of Rheumatic Diseases review of nearly 400 studies found that exercise reduced pain in people with fibromyalgia more than medications or other treatments. Gentle cardio like walking eases pain, improves sleep, lessens fatigue, and helps you shed pounds; weight-bearing activity strengthens muscles; and stretching increases range of motion.
- Find a release. Fibromyalgia can cause painful knots in muscles and fascia (the connective tissue around muscles). Myofascial release is a technique in which a practitioner slowly stretches your fascia, similar to stretching a piece of taffy. This can speed healing and lower inflammation. To find a provider, go to mfrtherapists.com.
- Cut out certain foods. Dairy and gluten can be highly inflammatory for some people (eggs, corn, and soy can too). Eliminate them for three to six months to see if there’s any improvement and to help you detect what may be a trigger.
- Just breathe. Light forms of yoga help your muscles relax. If you have fibromyalgia, avoid variations that have “power” or “hot” in the name—these types can actually aggravate symptoms.
It is not always easy to remember to take the time to do these exercises when my muscles are tight and aggravated. Fortunately, as the tightness builds in my body, I get mild dizziness when lifting my head up fast from bed. Sometimes, I may experience a mild zapping sensation. If you have ever missed a dose of an antidepressant, you know the sensation I am referring to.
Leaning forward too often when sitting at my computer, leaning down a lot when doing tasks such as vacuuming, and bending my neck when sleeping, are my regular culprits.
When it starts getting tight, I reduce certain activities (such as typing and texting) and do the above-listed exercises to stretch and loosen the muscles. Should I begin to develop pain in the back of my head (occipital muscles), I take Aleve. I find that once it gets to this point, too much exercise only aggravates the now-inflamed muscles.
If I have overdone movements and ignored the warning signs, I have to stop all unnecessary activities for a full day. Regular doses of Aleve, as well as applying an ice pack to the throbbing areas, are required to get the heightened pain to settle. As the inflammation reduces, I am able to gradually find the source of the pain, as it is the last to be the most tender to the touch. At worst, it can take up to a week before all hand, arm, shoulder, and neck muscles settle.
If you have similar problems, I hope these exercises and tips are helpful.