A sudden stabbing pain in your chest. The headache that lasts for days. And that stomach cramp that keeps coming back. These symptoms are sufficient to turn anyone into a full-fledged hypochondriac, and any unexplained medical symptoms warrant a call to your doctor. If you've gotten a clean bill of health and strange symptoms keep materializing, their root might be an unlikely source: your muscles.
Your muscles enable your body to do everything it does, from pumping blood to running a marathon. It's no wonder that minor muscle injuries are common. The tension of chronic stress and the degeneration that comes from a sedentary lifestyle make muscle-related ailments par for the course of modern life. Here are five symptoms that often have a muscular origin.
1. Chronic headaches
Think that headache you keep getting surely spells your demise? Think again. The overwhelming majority of headaches are muscular, usually originating in the neck or shoulders. Spending endless days typing away at a computer, getting inadequate exercise, and involuntarily tensing your muscles in response to stress can take this situation from bad to worse.
2. Gastrointestinal distress
Muscle pain in your abdominal and hip muscles can feel a lot like diarrhea or constipation. And sometimes, injury to these muscles slows or speeds your body's digestive process, resulting in stomach problems.
3. Mental health issues
Chronic pain can wreck your mental health, so if you live with headaches, back pain, or muscle spasms and feel depressed, consider treating your muscles first. Conversely, mental health problems can lead to muscle issues. Some people with depression struggle to get enough exercise, causing muscle pain related to too much sitting. But chronic stress also plays a role. You may tense your muscles in response to stress without even realizing it, and a mounting pile of research suggests that the brain may respond to stress by depriving your muscles of oxygen.
4. Sleep problems
Your body needs sleep to repair damaged tissue, so if you suffer from chronic insomnia, you may begin experiencing muscle pain. An unsupportive pillow, old mattress, or odd sleeping position can also leave you in a state of muscular misery.
5. Chest and other unexplained pains
You should never dismiss any chest pain, particularly if the pain is new or intense. If your doctor has given you a clean bill of cardiovascular health, though, don't panic when you get a brief twinge of chest pain. Tense shoulders, spasms in your pectoral muscles, and stress-related tension can cause chest pain. Need help discerning the difference? Most people with cardiovascular-related pain find that it gets better when they relax, but muscle pain tends to get better with exercise.