I have been dealing with chronic muscle pain for about 20 years now. As I mentioned in another post, I believed for a long time that this pain was simply due to repetitive stress injuries from playing the flute professionally for 35+ years. However, I found out a few years ago that this, along with joint pain, is actually a fairly common symptom for Hashimoto’s people.
I don’t really know how many different forms this chronic pain may take for people. In fact, I would love to hear from you out there about that because I haven’t found too many people talking in depth about this problem. My pain comes in the form of muscle knots and spasms which alternate between my left and right sides. I seem to always have tension or knots in my trapezius muscles (these are the muscles which go from your neck to your shoulders) and the muscles around the rotator cuff on my left shoulder. These, I believe, are rooted in my many years of flute playing, but they are “maintained” by the Hashi’s. I also have a group of knots on my right hip which seem to always be there. Sometimes I also get knots on my left hip and in the middle of my back.
When I am in a situation where I am able to care for myself well, meaning I can eat when I need to, rest when I need to, pace myself with work, then these knots/spasms are usually fairly easy to manage. You can read about what I do here.
However, when life becomes too stressful and I am not able to give myself the space I need, then I experience what I call “episodes”. The latest one involved spasms in the entire upper right quadrant of my body, and I simply had to stop everything I was doing and just rest.
Where does exercise fit in to this, you ask? Good question. There are people out there who advocate regular, sometimes strenuous, exercise for Hashi’s people, but if you’re dealing with chronic pain issues like I am, this is simply not possible.
I have to gauge, each and every day, what my body might be capable of on that particular day.
I love to walk, so I try to do this as much as I can, but I am always mindful of how my body is reacting to any activity I am doing. If my hips start to bother me while walking, then I slow the pace and head home. Every day can be totally different. Walking is great for everyone, but you have to figure out what works for you.
I also do a lot of stretching. I have found this to be a lifesaver. I have a set of stretches I do every morning before I get out of bed and another set that I do in the evening. If I’m having a day where things aren’t feeling so great, then I do another set in the middle of the day. Stretching can really help to keep your muscles long and more flexible.
The muscle symptoms associated with Hashi’s are apparently similar to fibromyalgia symptoms, so when I look for routines that might be helpful, I usually look for those that have been constructed for people with fibromyalgia. To get an idea of what kinds of stretches you might be able to do, click here.
I do specialized yoga moves. With my particular set of muscle issues, twisting is a bad thing, so I am not able to just “do yoga”. I also have to be very careful about how much strain I put on my upper body, which really eliminates anything involving a “downward dog”. Sarah Bates has some very gentle yoga routines for people with fibromyalgia that work pretty nicely for me. I have had to modify some of the poses for my own issues, but overall, I’ve found it works pretty well. You can find the routine I use here. Sarah has fibromyalgia herself, so she knows what muscle pain is like. She has a complete DVD set on Amazon if you find that you like this routine.
I use the MELT method. This is a group of specialized moves that helps to rehydrate the body’s connective tissue and I have found it to be quite helpful with moving toward a state of “renormalization” with my muscles. You will have to progress carefully and slowly with this in order not to overwhelm the body, but it does work. I noticed changes from the first time I tried this method. If I’m having an “episode” with a particular muscle or group of muscles, it’s usually better for me to take a break from this until things are calmed down a bit. But, once again, this is all very individual. You will have to work with your own body and decide what is best for your particular set of issues. To learn more about this method, go here.
I also use an Aeropilates machine from time to time. As usual though, I have to be very selective with the moves I do on this machine and be careful not to overdo. I find it to be very helpful in getting a bit of cardio on days I can’t go outside. It also provides a good set of exercises for the entire body, if you’re up to that. Go here to find out more.
I will also be investing in a treadmill soon because, unfortunately, I am not the kind of person who likes to go out in cold temps to walk. I’ve put this off for long enough and I do not want to “sit out” another winter with very little walking.
So, for me, walking and stretching have been my two mainstays and I rotate the other methods depending on how my body is feeling on any given day and/or whether or not I can get outside. Would love to hear about what has worked for you!
Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.
Please remember, I am not dispensing medical advice, only sharing my own experiences. Nothing stated on this page should be construed as medical advice. Be sure to consult a health professional before beginning any exercise program.