What Causes Chronic Muscle Pain Anyway

Essentially, your nervous system uses chronic muscle pain to tell you that something in your body isn't right or is out of balance. As if you didn't know already, pain's job is to grab your attention. Muscle pain is a message telling you to change something about your body — the way you stand or sit, what you eat, or how you live your life, for example. Pain tells you to pause, to be more careful, and to be more respectful of your body. Look at it this way: If you touch a hot stove, the pain you feel in your fingertips tells you to move your hand away from the flames. Chronic pain grabs your attention and holds it with a firm, steady grip, but the message that chronic pain sends is harder to interpret. You feel the pain, but you aren't quite sure what's causing it.

Constant, unrelieved muscle pain occurs when you ignore or stop listening to your body signals and continue the behavior that causes the pain. For example, sitting slumped at a computer for hours puts tremendous pressure and strain on your neck and shoulders. You hyperextend your muscles and stretch them out of alignment. Over time, these muscles lose their elasticity and tone and become hardened and rigid. They feel sore, and you experience chronic pain in your neck and shoulders.

Weak muscles that lose their tone and strength can't properly support the skeletal system. Lack of movement and flexibility can also be a factor in reducing elasticity in the connective tissue of your muscles, and this can cause muscle stiffness, rigidity, and pain. For example, many kinds of back pain are caused by weak belly muscles. Your belly muscles are crucial for supporting your back. Without them, you couldn't sit up or stand up straight. If your belly muscles become lax, a chain reaction occurs. The muscles along your spine become lax and nonsupporting as well, which can translate into a sore back.

Yoga with weights is an excellent way to address chronic muscle pain. The slow, relaxed movements help to open up tight and stiff areas of your body. The exercises also strengthen your body so that your musculoskeletal system gets the support it needs from different muscles. In the remainder of this chapter, we show you how to focus on different parts of your body to relieve chronic muscle pain with yoga-with-weights exercises.

Sleeping in spite of neck or back pain

The position in which you sleep can cause neck or back pain or aggravate already painful areas.

If you have neck pain, consider sleeping with a neck p///ow(sometimes called a cervical pillow; the cervical is the top portion of the spine that forms the back of your neck). This pillow supports the curve created by your shoulders, neck, and head. It takes some of the weight from your neck so that your muscles can rest and recuperate.

If you suffer from back pain, take some of the weight off your spine when you sleep. Try lying on your back with a small pillow under your knees. If you prefer sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your knees to relieve your spine of a portion of your body weight. It can take time (for plenty of trial and error), but finding the right mattress is sometimes the cure for back pain. Sleeping on a firm mattress often makes a difference. If you haven't found one, put a half-inch of plywood under your mattress for support.

Diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Parkinson's disease, and fibromyalgia can also cause chronic muscle pain. Pain can also be a side effect of some prescription drugs. If you're concerned about chronic muscle pain, be sure to consult your doctor.

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