This is a blog post that I rewrite every couple of years. Not only to keep fresh content on the site, but also because it’s SO IMPORTANT.
There are MANY things that can cause muscle and joint pain. MANY. Many, even, that a massage cannot help!
And some are super easy for a physician to rule out, run tests for, and, if diagnosed properly, get you improvement over a relatively short period of time.
These are some examples of various things your doctor may check. (Remember I am NOT a physician. These are for purposes of example only and are not exhaustive.)
- Low levels of Vitamin D. Diagnosed with a simple blood test and very easy to supplement.
- Thyroid. Hypothyroidism, extremely common in middle-aged women, can create aches and pains.
- Drug side effects. Some drugs, such as statins, can create side effects in muscles and joints. Switching medications, if there’s another appropriate option, or doses, is a way your physician can help mitigate those effects. (ONLY your physician can change your drugs/dosage, do not do so on your own.) Got headaches? Thousands of medications list headaches as a possible side effect.
- Dietary deficiency. An imbalance of magnesium, potassium, sodium, and even calcium can affect muscle cramping. Ever heard the old, “eat a banana” advice? Supplements can be purchased if your doctor feels it’s necessary and can help correct this. Statins, mentioned above, can strip CoQ10 and supplementing can help minimize adverse effects. (Sidenote: many dietary supplements are completely unnecessary, and they can be harmful. They are unregulated, and many don’t even contain what they say they contain! Oh, and they can interact with your prescriptions. Fun times! So be sure to disclose all supplements to your doctor and follow their advice.)
- Diseases. This one’s a bummer, and there’s not always a cure or even an improvement, but it’s important. Ehler Danlos Syndrome, Lupus, Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other diseases feature muscle and joint pain. Here’s the thing… the sooner you get a proper diagnosis, the sooner you can treat it. Many diseases are progressive and if left unchecked (such as with Rheumatoid Arthritis) you can have lasting and irreversible damage to your body. Your doctor can also assess your stress level and for depression, which both can cause physical pain.
- Referred pain. In the last 15 years I’ve had at least a handful of “back pain” clients that I’ve referred to their primary physician and sometimes even urgent care. I’ve seen diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, pneumonia, gallstones, and cancer, all of which presented as severe back pain.
Here are some other things that your physician can help with:
- Write a referral to a physical therapist to help strengthen the muscles around the affected joints and retrain your body
- Write a referral to a nutritionist to help you get what you need in your diet
- Write a referral to a mental professional to help you manage your stress levels
- Write a referral to a surgeon for a consultation, if needed
- Order imaging, such as MRIs, to get a more precise and accurate diagnosis
- Suggest and perform treatments such as trigger point injections, steroid injections
- Write a prescription for medications that will help you recover sooner and lessen your chance of developing a lifelong chronic pain
I hope I haven’t scared you. That’s not at all my goal. I don’t enjoy fear-based proselytizing any more than the next human.
That said, PLEASE make sure you have a conversation with your physician about your aches and pains.
(Sidenote: if you run into a licensed massage therapist who encourages you NOT to involve your physician, or is very anti-“Western Medicine,” run. You need one that will work WITH your physician if necessary and can communicate on their level as a professional licensed healthcare provider.)
Is modern medicine perfect? Decidedly not. Is our healthcare system broken? In many ways, yes. Can your physician save you years of discomfort by ruling out common pain-causing issues? Very possibly. It’s worth it.