It never ceases to amaze me how many aspects there are to this disease of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have lately been plagued with some significant muscle cramping in my feet, calves and thighs and I wondered if there was a relationship to my RA. Research has shown that muscle pain often is a lesser known but, nonetheless, real part of RA. Often it is overlooked unless connected with vasculitis, neuropathy, etc. That said, I think it needs to be acknowledged as yet another symptom we recognize. Coping with it can be yet another challenge as we manage the many nuances of RA.
I spoke with my Rheumatologist about this during a recent visit and he agreed that all else being fine, there likely is a connection. My RA joint pain is minimal at this point in time, thanks to the effectiveness of my latest medication protocol, but now and then I get mild aching in my muscles, especially in my legs. He suggested that because the musculoskeletal organs are so closely intertwined, this may just be my body’s latest way of getting my attention! Well, it worked.
Relieving muscle pain
So, how to relieve it? Well, one way is to not stop exercising if you do and start exercising if you don’t. I am a swimmer and the days when it was most troubling I actually pushed myself to get in the pool and water jog and do some aqua aerobics and it really did help. Over time I am noticing the duration and intensity decreasing so hopefully this is helping. Walking and not remaining in a stationary position for too long is also a good idea. Sitting for too long makes our joints stiffen up anyway, so by getting up and moving we are addressing two issues at once.
Another strategy is to get a massage. It is amazing how helpful it is to have someone gently knead those sore muscles. It is incredibly helpful both physically and mentally. I also take some OTC pain relievers and that helps. For me, heat is a sure fire way to get some relief as it improves circulation to the sore area, often providing some comfort and pain relief. A hot bath with Epsom salts is amazingly helpful as it soothes those sore muscles. I also recently purchased a “kneading stick”, which looks a lot like a rolling pin with nodules. Rolling this across my feet, calves, and thighs feels great.
A strong word of caution here about all of this. It is crucial that you not assume this is just something you can handle yourself. Given the many possibilities for muscle discomfort it is absolutely essential that you share this with your medical team. As I briefly mentioned above, there are a variety of potentially more serious causes for muscle pain. Determining what may or may not be connected to RA is, and always will be, challenging. It is imperative that we discuss any new or ongoing symptoms with our medical team and have a dialogue about what may or may not be the cause.
If we follow some of the tips offered to get some relief, we CAN overcome this muscle madness!
Please consult with your rheumatologist and medical team if any of these tips may be helpful to you before implementing them.