PART ONE - PART TWO
Hello again, my lovely loves! Part two, and let's get right into it.
Most people have had muscle pain at one time or another, but the closest to the muscle pains I get now was when I had growing pains as a teenager.
There was a period of about a couple of years when I would get excruciating pains in my legs as they grew so quickly. It’s like you can feel the bones creaking as they grow and your muscles are being pulled way beyond their tolerance.
(My Mum likes to joke that I got her share of legs as well as my own, but man, spending a couple of years like Stretch Armstrong did not feel like an achievement.)
I’d make gym comparisons, but I’ve never been to one. Oops!
Things to deal with muscle pain are:
Again, keep the area warm to help the muscle relax as much as possible. Hot water bottles, warm baths, warm clothes.
(See again, the infrared saunas mentioned in Part One.)
Stretches or Massage
Gentle stretches are a good way of loosening the muscles as much possible to help prevent further pain and cramping. It can also help the muscle pain to dissipate quicker.
I do this with my leg pain, as well as massaging the muscles to try and loosen them and get the blood flowing better (if my hands aren’t also painful).
Similarly, regular professional massage can be used to managed pain, although obviously more expensive than simple stretches.
Make sure to tell your masseuse that you suffer from a condition that gives you pain; it can help them tailor their massage technique to better help you. Some massage therapists are wary of ME/CFS, mainly because they haven’t heard of it before, but if you explain, or say that it often coincides with fibromyalgia, it should give them a better idea of what they’re working with.
I’ve heard so many good things about acupuncture for so many different issues, but I have a thing about needles, so I’m not sure it’s something I’d personally try.
Ask around people you know though. If you exist on planet earth you’re bound to know someone who raves about acupuncture.
Musculoskeletal Spasms AKA the Stabby Stabbies
As my nickname for them suggests, Musculoskeletal Spasms are a much sharper pain than the previous two types mentioned, reminiscent of a cramp.
I tend to get them in my jaw, my chest and my back. The first time I had sharp chest pains for about twenty minutes we all tried desperately not to freak out while we called the doctor. Fortunately my heart checks were clear, and the doctor diagnosed musculoskeletal spams.
I tend to get the chest and back pains the most, and it’s a sharp pain that hits at the end of an inhale, and the end of an exhale; so basically when the diaphragm reaches the high or low point of it’s movement.
It feels a bit like your muscles have been caught on something sharp inside your chest and when you breathe in it’s yanking them.
You learn very quickly not to breathe deeply, and not to laugh when it’s happening. This is one scenario when laughing in the face of danger is not the way to go.
The jaw pains are equally fun, because if I move my face in the wrong way it feels like a knife to the cheek. Eating when this is happening is difficult so I try to stick to drinks and soup.
These spasms do tend to go away on their own after a while, but they’re very painful while they last, so I try different things to try and shorten an episode.
I tend to get these when I’m stressed, and stress seems to prolong them, so staying calm and trying to relax is generally a good move.
Talk to your doctor
If you are getting chest pains of any kind then you need to get them checked by a doctor, especially if you have a family history of heart conditions.
Chest pains are fairly common with ME/CFS, but you need to double check that it’s not an overlapping condition.
I should have shares in hot water bottles with the amount I recommend them, but they really are amazing. Some people say applying cold is better for spasms, but that’s just going to make my bones hurt, so I apply heat instead.
Basically anything that relaxes the muscles is good so...
I absolutely hate the taste of tonic water. (And I think gin tastes like the smell of nail polish remover, so gin and tonic drinkers confuse me greatly.)
Mum can attest that I do this pretty much every time.
However, there’s some anecdotal evidence that quinine helps with muscle cramps, so if I get the Stabby Stabbies I have a small can of tonic water. I’m not sure if it’s psychological, as there’s no scientific evidence to support quinine helping cramps, but as far as I can tell it does seem to help mine dissipate a little faster. Do with that what you will.
Bear in mind, however, that if you do decide to try quinine it’s best not to have too much, so occasional use is best. Some people can have a bad reaction to quinine, so if drinking tonic water makes you feel nauseous or dizzy then stay away from it.
Doctors recommend that you not take quinine supplements as they are far more concentrated and they can cause medical issues. Heed their words.
Very Gentle Stretches
Sometimes these seem to be triggered if I’ve twisted something or have been mashing my face into the pillow whilst fighting the forces of darkness in my sleep. If I’m lucky, very, very gentle stretching of the area can speed up their recovery. Be careful though. Move slowly or it’ll trigger more spasmy-stabby-funtimes.
Professional massage therapy
For more acute and ongoing cases massage can help manage musculoskeletal pain. I’d let a professional handle this type though, because it affects ligaments and bones as well as muscles.
Anti-inflammatory injections or medications, serotonin and painkillers can be prescribed to help musculoskeletal spasms if they’re more serious. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.
Tiny needles are apparently helpful for this. I am still not keen.
Everyone knows how headaches feel, so I’m not going to get into it here.
Mine tend to hit me in the brow and around my eyes, and at the point where my neck meets my skull. They also happen for a few different reasons, so I find them quite frustrating, because I have to work out what’s triggered the headache to try and fix it.
There is a marked different between a headache and a migraine; I’ve had both. Migraines are fairly common with ME/CFS but fortunately I mostly get headaches of varying degrees. They can get bad, but not full-on, can’t-move migraines with the extra symptoms like auras and nausea.
My migraine knowledge is limited, so if people want to share what they use for them in the comments, please do.
If you’re getting regular headaches, then double check when your last eye test was, because it could be that your eyes are straining.
If you’re housebound you can get a free visit from a qualified optician who will do a check in your home.
Take a break from screens
If you’ve been staring at a screen for a while, it can strain your eyes.
For some it’s the same with books.
Put that latest episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race on pause and come back to it later.
I know I can sound like a broken record sometimes, but resting properly and regularly has helped my headaches the most. When I first got ill I had headaches pretty much constantly, and it wasn’t until I started using the resting ratio method that they started becoming more manageable and infrequent.
It turns out that headaches are one of my warnings signs that I’m overdoing it and need to rest.
The next thing on my list of the-mystery-of-the-confusing-headache is to drink a glass of water. Keep that brain of yours floating in fluid. (Sorry. That sounded less gross in my head.)
Most people in my family get really bad pressure headaches from the weather. If the sky is that flat, pale grey reminiscent of old cloudy tupperware then you can pretty much guarantee that one or all of us has a Downright Thumper.
Sometimes I can lessen a headache by going outside. Even if all I can manage is to stick my head out of the window for a minute, fresh air can help.
Shake fists at sky
If the fresh air doesn’t work on the pressure headache then obviously there’s not much I do about the weather, but shaking my fists at the sky makes me feel slightly better about the situation. To be honest it’s a good one for most pain-related scenarios.
Sit up more
Sometimes I get headaches if I’ve been lying down for too long. Obviously that’s a common problem for me, so propping myself up more, or adding another pillow under my head can help.
4Head is a menthol stick that you rub on your temples and forehead (clues in the name). I love this stuff and it can really help shift a stubborn headache for me. Fingers crossed it will for you too.
Just don’t let anyone kiss you on the forehead or they will get a nasty, burny surprise. Sorry, Mum.
If all of this doesn’t work then it’s paracetamol time. I know other people take stronger medications like Pizotifen for headaches and migraines, so if you need something that packs more punch, talk to you doctor.
Straying into oh-god-why level now, we break out the cool cloth on the forehead. Obviously, you don’t have to save it for the really bad ones, but at this point my Mum normally swoops in like a beautiful angel and reminds me that cold things exist.
I’ve not tried this, but I know that people use CBD oil for headaches.
*sigh* Still no.
This sounds kind of ridiculous but one of the reasons I get headaches so much is because I frown ALL THE TIME. I do it when I’m concentrating so I don’t even realise it's happening. Sometimes it actually makes my eyebrows hurt.
I recently saw a video of a blogger who’d had botox to stop frown lines and she said that all her tension headaches went away because the muscles in her face weren’t able to hold that tension anymore.
The NHS also uses it in certain cases of chronic migraines when other medications aren’t working.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious, so if you know anyone else who’s had this then let me know because it’s so, so fascinating.
I’m not sure I’d actually get it done, because, you know, needles, but I’d still like to know my options in case Frowny McFrownface headaches become unbearable, and for some reason one needle is less terrifying than all the tiny needles.
There’s always the chance I could end up looking like a startled stoat though. Hmm. Maybe not.
Some sufferers have poor reactions to chemicals, including pain, and trying to avoid them can help.
I have a friend with fibromyalgia who did kinesiology to work out what she couldn’t tolerate and ended up getting rid of 95% of the chemicals in her house, and her pain is so much better.
I’m not saying that paying for kinesiology is necessary but looking at the number of chemicals you’re around could help.
I've popped this in the headache section because I know perfumes, air fresheners and other aerosols give me (and her) headaches, so it’s an easy one to try and change.
Alternative cleaning products can be expensive, but if you shop around then it can be workable.
My mum uses a concentrate called MPD from Forever Aloe, which, as the company name suggests, is Aloe Vera based.
It’s expensive, but you can use it for pretty much everything, including laundry, and it’s so concentrated that a little goes a very long way.
This regular time of joy and rainbows is covered in its own blog post here. Good luck and godspeed.
I hope this piece has been useful and helps you find some relief from pain or understand other people’s pain a bit more.
If you have tips and tricks you’ve picked up, please share them in the comments to add to information available to readers.
All the best,
PART ONE - PART TWO