A skeletal muscle that has been misused, overused, or injured typically produces pain. The common pain-inducing culprits are strains (torn or pulled muscles) and cramps (muscles that experience prolonged contractions or spasms). A strain involves bleeding in the muscle, resulting in scar tissue.
Bodywork for Muscle Pain
Bodywork therapies can ease muscle pain and restore complete body function. Massage is particularly recommended to relieve muscle pain and tension and boost blood circulation to bring oxygen and nutrients to the affected muscles and carry away any toxic substances. In the case of strains, massage can lessen the amount of scar tissue and prevent the muscle from shortening as it heals.
Other useful bodywork therapies offer help for those affected by muscle pain:
- The Feldenkrais Method offers new ways to move the body, helping to relax cramped or tense muscles.
- Reflexology applies pressure to certain reflex points on the feet and hands to help the body heal itself.
- Rolfing manipulates muscles and connective tissue to realign the body with respect to the field of gravity.
- Shiatsu involves finger pressure at certain points on the body's meridians, to ease pain and improve circulation.
A trained practitioner is needed to perform any of these bodywork therapies.
Aromatherapy for Muscle Pain
Aromatherapy uses essential oils from certain plants and herbs to relieve pain and any accompanying spasms or inflammation. The oils can be applied with gentle massages or compresses. A few can also be added to bathwater. Commonly used oils for muscle pain include:
- helichrysum (Italian everlasting)
- thyme (linalol and red)
Biofeedback Training for Muscle Pain
Biofeedback training can be useful for muscle pain that refuses to go away. Depending on the injury and current status of the muscle, the therapy teaches people to relax or tense their muscles.
Electromyographic biofeedback is the technique typically used for muscle pain. In this therapy, electrodes are attached to the patient's skin and measure the electrical activity in the muscles. A special monitor displays the level of this activity, which reveals the amount of tension in the muscles. Armed with this information, the patient can learn to alter the tension with the use of relaxation exercises, guided imagery, and other methods. Along the way, the biofeedback monitor signals the progress.
Biofeedback also gives people a sense of control over their health, a significant plus when it comes to successfully managing pain. Biofeedback trainers often teach progressive muscle relaxation to their patients so they can practice controlling muscle tension at home. Here are the steps:
- Wearing comfortable clothes, lie down on your back on the floor or a firm mattress.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Tighten the muscles in your feet. Hold for a couple of seconds. Release these muscles.
- Next, tense the muscles in your calves. Again, hold and release.
- Continue up the body in this fashion. (Don't forget to include the arms and end with the scalp.)
- Remain lying down in a relaxed state until you are ready to get up
Other Muscle Pain Therapies
- Acupuncture for Muscle Pain -- This therapy is particularly successful in easing or eliminating pain.
- Chiropractic Medicine for Muscle Pain -- Manipulation or adjustments can correct misaligned parts of the spine, eliminating pain and letting the body heal itself.
- Guided Imagery and Creative Visualization for Muscle Pain -- These techniques are effective in pain management and tension reduction.
- Herbal Medicine for Muscle Pain -- Commonly used herbs, including arnica, comfrey, and ginger are all applied externally.
- Hydrotherapy for Muscle Pain -- Alternating hot and cold compresses can ease pain and speed healing. Warm Epsom salt baths are also an option.
- Neural Therapy for Muscle Pain -- Injections of local anesthetics may bring relief for long-term muscle pain.
- Nutritional Therapy for Muscle Pain -- Treatments are tailored to the type of muscle pain. For example, calcium and magnesium supplements may help treat nighttime leg cramps. Enzyme therapy with bromelain can also treat certain types of pain.