A muscle pain flare is defined as an exacerbation or worsening of what may already be minor pain. However, people may use various timeframes for what is considered to be a flare, but usually, it can be several weeks of the symptoms worsening. A shorter period is considered waxing and waning of the symptoms, but that depends on the type of muscular pain being felt.
Times of isolation, such as during an illness or staying indoors mostly during winter, can also lead to a pain flare, usually of old joint and muscle injuries. That is why it is important for people to keep moving even if their bodies do not want to move. Even if scar tissue has been minimized, pain associated with the scar can still resurface when you get out of your rhythm and routine. It is best for your physical and mental health to avoid large fluctuations in your pain cycle by staying in your routine.
So, the question is, how do you manage or even avoid those flares?
Steps to Avoid Pain Flares in Muscles
You can take specific actions which will help you avoid pain flares in muscles and at least minimize any painful flareups. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
You will want to make sure to walk around a lot, which helps take a break from excessive sitting that you might be engaging in as part of your work or current routine.
Hydration is essential even if you want to avoid cramping. Make sure you drink around 3 bottles of water a day.
Are there any non-drug pain relievers that worked for you in the past? Make a list and keep it handy. Generally, those things will include:
If you have chronic muscle pain, keep your muscles as warm and supple as possible.
If you are chronically cold, your muscles will tense up and worsen your chronic pain.
Consider meditation – Lookup YouTube videos for meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Yoga. Following along can help relax your muscles.
Try some hot tea to keep you warm from the inside out.
You Will Want to Keep Moving As Much As Possible
One of the best ways to avoid pain flares in muscles is to continue exercising. If you didn’t exercise regularly previously, now would be a good time to start. If you are stuck indoors owing to the current restrictions, there are many exercises you can do indoors.
Start by setting up an area in your home. You should have enough space to roll out, stretch and warm up your muscles. If you can add an elliptical trainer or jogger in there, all the better.
Start by making sure that you take the time to warm up. Warming up will ensure that your muscles are supple, which makes exercising more manageable and reduces instances of muscle pain. Cold muscles tend to tense up and will make the pain worse.
Muscle wellness: How to Stretch and Avoid Pain
Before exercise: The best way to stretch for anyone trying to avoid flares in muscles is to do what’s called dynamic stretching exercises. What that means is that instead of trying to hold in a stretch position, you slowly stretch your muscles while in motion, like performing walking lunges or rolling the neck.
Do as many stretching exercises to cover most parts of your body. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to complete a basic routine.
After exercise: Once you are done exercising you can then use a foam roller to remodel your scar tissue and soft tissues, which promotes blood flow in those areas that are particularly stiff or tender. The flowing blood promotes healing, prevents injury, and is a natural pain reliever.
Alternatively, you can also use heat to improve blood flow which promotes healing damaged tissue. Using moist heat helps to penetrate the tissue deeper than just resorting to dry heat. Especially with dry heat, avoid extreme heat or greater than 20 minutes of heat, as this can cause burns and may damage your skin.
Using Foam Rollers
Firmness of the rollers should be in the soft-medium range
Only roll over muscles that have a “bone-barrier” between the muscle and underlying organs. In other words, be careful rolling over your back under your ribcage and above your pelvic bones.
Start rolling against the wall instead of using your full body weight onto the floor.
When you roll over tender spots, stop and hold the pressure for 5-10 seconds, then move onto the next spot. Come back to the tender spot after a few seconds and hold again. As you release you are bringing healing blood flow into the tender area.
Roll every day and roll on both sides even if you are only tender on one side.
You can use a tennis ball for focal spots in the same way (see below for self trigger point releases)
Follow up your rolling with moist heat!
Using Self-Trigger-Point Release
Another great way to avoid flares in muscles is by using self-trigger-point-release. First, what is a trigger point? A trigger point is defined as a localized, usually tender or painful, area of a muscle that when stimulated gives rise to pain elsewhere in the body. Some people may have multiple trigger points. So what should be done about these trigger points? Well, as it turns out, there are a few things you can do:
Start by finding the tender spot using a tennis ball or your thumb. Then press the spot to the extent that you can feel the pain that it generates. Hold the thumb or the tennis ball there for up to 12 seconds, then release it for around 4 seconds and repeat. Do this 5 times. Finish up by applying some moist heat to the trigger point or the entire area, and that should help release the tight muscles and help them relax.
Suppose the underlying cause of this trigger point is a scar. In that case, it will require some advanced manual therapy along with ultrasound-guided needle therapy or some kinetic chain evaluations to help resolve the trigger points. These are more long-term strategies that a doctor can advise you on.
Always make sure to visit a doctor to get their opinion before you undertake any therapy. It is important that every aspect of your health is considered.
Daily stretches are an excellent way to maintain muscle and joint health, keeping your muscles supple and your mind focused.. You can use these basic stretches described below multiple times a day, as they should only take a few minutes. Be careful not to over-stretch and listen to your body. Everyone’s body is different, and your body may change day to day (some days more flexible than other days).
Over the course of several months, your flexibility will improve, and you’ll see a dramatic change in the pain flares you once experienced.
Make it a point to take time to warm up your muscles to avoid injury. After you exercise you can use a foam roller for all the painful and knotted-up spots. Finish up with a hot bath and some hot tea to stay warm and relaxed!
Patricia Delzell, M.D., is a board-certified musculoskeletal radiologist specializing in integrative treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Dr. Delzell is a specialist in musculoskeletal ultrasound and is fellowship trained in cross-sectional imaging and integrative medicine. She is president of Advanced Musculoskeletal Medicine Consultants, Inc.
8401 Chagrin Rd Suite 20 A
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023