Muscle Aches (Myalgia)

What are muscle ache?
muscle aches

Muscle aches or myalgia are possible side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Sometimes muscle aches are associated with other symptoms (muscle weakness, cramps, or depression).

It may affect a specific area in the body or the whole body. The aches might be constant or come and go. It can affect your quality of life, limit mobility, and make other symptoms worse, when left untreated.

How bad are my muscle aches?

Your clinic will use this scale (see figure on right) to measure how bad your pain is.

Mild: Pain score of 3 or less on the VAS scale. This pain should not stop you from doing activities of daily life (like grocery shopping, laundry, cooking).

pain scale

Moderate: Pain score of 4 to 6. This pain stops you from doing instrumental activities of daily life (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using a telephone). The other symptoms are joint pain, back pain, and fatigue.

Severe: Pain score of 7 or higher. This pain is bad enough to stop you from even the most basic (self-care) activities of daily life like eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower, and using the toilet. Visit your doctor urgently if you have fever, shortness of breath, neck stiffness and decreased urine output.

How to manage mild to moderate muscle aches?

Keep track of your pain levels using Ankr (myAnkr web portal or the Ankr app). It will help you describe the pain to your doctor or nurse.

Some self-care and support methods are:

  • A massage therapist can do a gentle therapeutic massage that may help ease muscle pain.
  • physical therapist can treat muscle problems and teach you how to relieve pain using simple exercises or devices.
  • Gentle exercise, along with stretching and strengthening, may help loosen muscles and increase blood flow.
  • Hot or cold compresses, heating pads, or ice packs may help decrease discomfort.
  • Gentle breathing or meditation exercises can help you relax and reduce muscle tension. This can help muscles ache less.
How to manage severe muscle aches?

Seek medical help if muscle pain does not improve with self-care or over-the-counter pain medication. Redness fever, stiffness, and swelling around a sore muscle (a sign of infection) Systemic muscle pain (pain throughout the body), which may indicate an infection or underlying illness.

What causes muscle aches?
  1. Certain types of cancer:
  • Tumors that start in a muscle
  • Tumors that press against a muscle
  • Cancers that cause the body to make too many white blood cells

Muscle aches go away after cancer treatment. It can be a late effect, happening months or years after treatment ends.

2. Cancer treatments

  • Chemotherapy
  • Aromatase inhibitors (AIs)
  • Other hormonal therapies (fulvestrant, raloxifene, tamoxifen)
  • Targeted therapy (trastuzumab and T-DM1 or ado-trastuzumab emtansine)
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

3. Medicine for cancer-related symptoms or other conditions:

  • White blood cell growth factors
  • Drugs to treat bone loss
  • Cholesterol drugs or statins

Cancer-related side effects (fatigue, muscle weakness, depression, cramps, and dehydration)

4. Other factors, unrelated to a cancer diagnosis:

  • Overuse of a muscle through sports, or work
  • Muscle injuries caused by accidents
  • Getting an infection (flu or COVID-19) with a virus or bacteria
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica, lupus, and fibromyalgia
  • Poor blood supply to the affected muscle
  • Hormone disorders (hypothyroidism)
  • Changes in electrolyte (blood chemistry) levels

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