Chronic pain doesn’t have to be a lifelong companion

Pain frequently occurs in the muscles, so this is the first place to look.

by Dr. Mark Starr — 

Many people have accepted pain as a lifelong companion because their doctors don’t know to examine all the possibilities for finding a solution. There are many reasons a person might have chronic pain, and it pays to explore them all.

Pain frequently occurs in the muscles, so this is the first place to look. Muscles make up about half the body and are loaded with nerves. There are four types of muscle pain:

  1. Trigger points are hyperirritable knots in muscles that “trigger” a painful response. The resulting knots may cause pain to radiate out to the joints, or cause headaches and dizziness.
  2. Muscle spasm often occurs when a muscle is injured or there is an underlying metabolic problem such as low thyroid, low estrogen or nutritional deficiencies.
  3. Muscle tension is a prolonged contraction of a muscle, beyond functional or postural need. Chronic tension often results in painful contraction and shortening of muscles.
  4. Muscle deficiency comes from weak and/or stiff muscles. Hamstrings can be tight, or stomach muscles can be weak, resulting in back pain.

Trigger point therapy starts with a local anesthetic. Several injections of lidocaine go into the tender spots to break up the knots. Follow-up includes electric stimulation and exercises for three days after the injections. Several weeks of treatment may be required, depending upon how many affected muscles there are. If a person is low on thyroid or estrogen, the trigger points and muscle pain will probably recur, as proper hormone balance is crucial for normal muscle functions.

Treatment for muscle spasm includes 10 minutes of cold packs to the involved area, followed by electrical stimulation to fatigue the muscle and increase blood flow. After electrical stimulation, the patient performs gentle limbering and relaxation exercises.

Ethyl chloride spray, a coolant, is used on the painful muscles to facilitate movement. The incidence of muscle spasm among a group of low-thyroid patients decreased from 56 percent to 8 percent after proper treatment with desiccated thyroid.

Muscle tension is often due to poor ergonomics while using computers, telephones or performing other tasks that are stressful. Correcting poor ergonomics, such as relaxation of the shoulders and bending the elbows more than 90 degrees while using a keyboard, is necessary. Exercises, massage and electric stimulation often help. An inability to relax may also be caused by low thyroid and estrogen deficiencies.

Muscle weakness and stiffness are treated with exercise. An excellent program was once the “Y’s [YMCA] Way to a Healthy Back.” More than 300,000 patients participated. A study of more than 11,000 who had back pain for at least one year showed better than 80 percent improvement after the six-week course.

Last, but certainly not least, is the need to look for heavy metal toxicities (mercury, lead, aluminum), yeast problems such as candidiasis, chemical sensitivities, food allergies and other environmental contaminants. Pollutants are toxic to muscles and interfere with all aspects of thyroid metabolism.

Most people with chronic pain have a combination of the four types of muscle pain. Hormone deficiencies are becoming much more frequent as well. A person who is experiencing any of these symptoms should seek help with hormone imbalances and muscle pain.


Mark Starr, M.D.(H), is a lecturer and author of Type 2 Hypothyroidism: The Epidemic. He is board certified by the American Board of Pain Medicine. He recently moved to Arizona and opened his practice at 10565 N. Tatum Blvd., Paradise Valley, Ariz. or 480-607-6503.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 6, December 2008/January 2009.


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