‘I have constant flu like body aches, it seriously feels like I have the flu all of the time… I also have really bad body twitching, headaches and neck, shoulder pain, not to mention my hips! I feel like I am 80 years old not 33’, lamented Amy on one of the health-boards. Eighteen or eighty, constant body aches can afflict anyone and can be a harrowing experience for those suffering from it. The most common types are head, neck and back pain, muscle pain, joint pain, and also, neuropathic pain which occurs when the nervous system doesn’t function properly. It is a medical condition that needs attention and should not be ignored.
What are the symptoms of constant body ache?
The most obvious symptom of this condition is of course, the severe pain in the muscles and joints very much resembling those you might experience during flu. The aches and pains may cause fever (read about the causes of a fever you might not know about). When the pain becomes severe, tenderness in the joint areas and inflammation of the muscles may result in weakness and feeling sick.
Constant body aches may lead to increased fatigue, as the pain occurs not only in one particular area but almost all over the body. So much so, you might even have trouble sleeping. Sleeping problems almost go hand in hand with chronic body aches.
Why do I get constant body aches?
Reasons can be many. Injuries from accidents whether minor or major may result in such body aches. Unfortunately, the condition can worsen during winters or during cold weather. Constant widespread aches can also be genetic (you may acquire this condition from your parents or blood relatives).
Not necessarily, but aging can also cause these chronic body aches. Older adults are more likely to have long-term medical problems, such as diabetes or arthritis, which can lead to ongoing pain. For reasons unknown, sometimes not having any illness may also cause constant body aches in older adults.
Some diseases too cause constant body aches. Severe or prolonged widespread pains may indicate serious disorders or diseases. Do not ignore it; consult a doctor as soon as possible.
What diseases am I likely to have if my body aches constantly?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder with hallmark symptoms of chronic widespread pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances that negatively affects the quality of life. Other key symptoms associated with fibromyalgia are tenderness, stiffness, depression, anxiety and cognitive difficulties (read about how you can deal with anxiety). Mood and anxiety disorders generally co-occur with fibromyalgia since they have common pathophysiologic (functional changes associated with or resulting from disease or injury) abnormalities. Fibromyalgia is also known to co-exist with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine, temporomandibular disorder (jaw and surrounding facial muscle problems), painful bladder syndrome, inflammation of prostate gland and chronic pelvic pain. This means, if you have fibromyalgia, you may also side by side have one or more of the mentioned medical conditions.
To relieve pain and to help you cope with the symptoms, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants or muscle relaxants to reduce pain perception in your brain (find out what antidepressants are). But the first line of treatment involves physical therapy, exercise, eating a well balanced diet, stress-relief methods such as massage and relaxation techniques like yoga asanas for stress relief and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In some cases, non-pharmacologic treatment has shown to be more useful than medications alone. For example, studies have shown that yoga, accupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), are valid therapeutic methods for fibromyalgia.
Very similar to fibromyalgia is a medical condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The symptoms are almost same except that in fibromyalgia widespread body ache is the primary symptom whereas extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest is how doctors diagnose CFS.
Sometimes chronic Lyme disease can be the cause of constant body aches. With symptoms such as marked fatigue, severe headache, widespread musculoskeletal pain, tender points in characteristic locations, pain and stiffness in many joints, impairment of sensation, difficulty with concentration, memory loss, and sleep disturbances, it is remarkably similar to that of fibromyalgia and CFS. Read about yoga asanas for better sleep.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that spreads through the bite of the blacklegged tick. Although, the disease can be cured with antibiotics if diagnosed in the early stages, it can cause complications such as long-term joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis) and heart rhythm problems, as well as brain and nervous system problems. So, apart from the above symptoms (which usually show up later) check with your doctor if you have a large, red, expanding rash that may look like a bull’s eye, or you have been bitten by a tick when hiking or walking in wooded or bushy areas.
Clichéd but true, stress can also be responsible for constant body aches. Headache, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue, sleep problems and stomach upsets are all common effects of stress on your body. But, if you’re not sure whether stress is causing the symptoms or if you’ve taken steps to control your stress but your symptoms continue, Mayo Clinic experts suggest you see your doctor to check for other potential causes.
Other chronic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, viral gastroenteritis, or even the common flu can cause constant body aches. Doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences have found that constant body aches could be a symptom for tuberculosis and cancer too, even though sometimes these may be confused with infective or inflammatory conditions, particularly in young individuals, and degenerative conditions of the spine and hip in elderly. This may delay the diagnosis and treatment leading to poor outcomes or even death. ‘If the patient is not showing any improvement after about 6–8 weeks of anti-tuberculosis therapy (ATT) then alternate diagnosis (for cancer) should be strongly considered’, says Dr Ashish Goel, at the Department of Medicine, AIIMS,New Delhi.
So, don’t ignore that body ache. Get a diagnosis as soon as possible and immediately if the pain gets worse.
Tired of reading? Check out our YouTube Channel
Loved this article? Vote for health.india.com for the ‘Website of the Year’ Award and stand a chance to win goodies. Don’t forget to activate your vote from your inbox.