Muscle pain, or myalgia, is a sign the body may have an injury, infection, disease, or other health problem. Everyone experiences muscle pain differently. Symptoms include either a deep, steady ache or random sharp pains. Some people have muscle pain all over, while others have it in certain areas.
Prolonged activity is not the only cause of muscle pain. Other triggers include autoimmune diseases, infections, trauma from injuries, medication side effects, and several neuromuscular disorders. We will examine acute muscle soreness and techniques to manage relief from these symptoms successfully. Anyone experiencing sustained symptoms should promptly consult qualified medical assistance.
People of all ages and genders can experience sore muscles. When you try a new physical activity or switch up your exercise routine, you may experience delayed-onset muscle soreness. Muscle soreness may happen six to 12 hours after a workout and can last up to 48 hours. You feel pain as the muscles heal and get stronger. In addition to muscle pain, you may also have joint pain, muscle cramps, and spasms.
One of the most genuinely amazing qualities of the human body is its ability to heal. While modern medicine has enhanced this capability, the body’s innate ability to manage its processes is still nothing short of miraculous. Here are some techniques that research has documented are effective for personal pain management.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is an effective technique for reducing overall body tension and psychological stress. This simple process involves tensing and relaxing all of the major muscles in your body, descending from your head to your feet.
By tensing and flexing your muscles before relaxing them, you enable yourself to relax them more thoroughly when you release, letting go of physical tension more effectively. Fortunately, it can be quickly learned and practiced virtually anywhere.
Research shows that relaxing your body can also release psychological tension and stress, minimizing your stress reactivity and decreasing your chronic stress experience. With regular practice, the relaxation triggered from the PMR technique can come more quickly and automatically, making it an excellent go-to method for those situations that involve physical tension.
As you are tensing and relaxing all your body’s muscle groups, you can move to a shorter version of this activity, known as Deep Muscle Relaxation. This process is where you learn to relax your whole body rapidly.
When practicing DMR, imagine relaxation streaming from your head to your feet like water flowing through and gently engulfing you. As the tension reduces, you will feel less stress and enjoy increased physical and emotional health.
Other relaxation techniques include deep breathing, therapeutic massage, physical activity including Tai chi and yoga, music and art therapy, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy. Relaxation techniques take practice to master. As you learn various techniques, you become more aware of muscle tension and other physical sensations of stress. Once you know what the stress response feels like, you can make a conscious effort to practice a relaxation technique when you start to feel stress symptoms. This technique can prevent stress from spiraling out of control.
Autogenic relaxation. The term ‘Autogenic’ means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you combine both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress.
You repeat words or suggestions in your mind that may help you relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
Autogenic training is a relaxation technique first discovered by German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz in 1932. Schultz documented that individuals undergoing hypnosis entered a relaxed state where they experienced feelings of heaviness and warmth. He sought to replicate that state in people to reduce acute stress, tension, and anxiety.
Autogenic training works through a series of affirmations and self-statements about heaviness and warmth in different body parts, triggering a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system. Although less well-known than other relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery, a meta-analytic study in 2008 found autogenic training in treating physical stress and emotional anxiety to be highly effective.
Mindfulness training (Also known as mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR) is a technique to help people pay more attention to their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings – without judgment or the need to fix things. This training will improve your self-awareness and allow you to experience more intense events, activities, or moments and enjoy them more.
Mindfulness training aims to help you recognize negative thoughts and feelings that are easy to get caught up in and then successfully distance yourself from them.
Research shows when people become more aware of everyday things such as the taste of their food or the wind in their face when they go on walks, this helps them to desensitize and manage outcomes better. Or they may try to avoid reacting immediately to what others say or do and instead slow down and take their time. These approaches aim to stop our “autopilot” that makes us respond automatically to things without being aware of them.
Some adult education centers and health care wellness programs offer mindfulness courses. It’s also possible to learn mindfulness techniques with the help of a CD or audio file. In addition, mindfulness training can combine mindfulness with psychological treatments.
Remember that all relaxation techniques are skills. As with any skill, your ability to relax improves with practice. Be patient with yourself. Don’t let your effort to practice relaxation techniques become yet another stressor.
If a specific relaxation technique doesn’t work for you, try another method. If none of these efforts at stress reduction seems to work, talk to your doctor about other options. Some people with serious psychological issues and a history of abuse may experience emotional discomfort during relaxation techniques. Although this is uncommon, if you trigger emotional pain during relaxation techniques, stop what you’re doing and discuss this with your doctor or mental health provider.
How do you reduce muscle tension?
- Move at least every hour for a minimum of three minutes
- Ergonomic modifications
- Exercise (can reduce pain and tension)
- Gentle stretching (to reduce tone)
- Isolated light strengthening