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.
You need to learn how bad (severe) your symptoms are.
How bad are my muscle aches?
Your clinic will use this scale (see figure on the 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, and cooking).
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 the 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.
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.
Warning signs/severe symptoms of muscle ache that need immediate medical attention
- shortness of breath
- neck stiffness
- decreased urination
- stiffness and swelling around a sore muscle
- other signs of infection
- Systemic muscle pain (pain throughout the body
Supportive care for muscle aches
- A massage therapist can do a gentle therapeutic massage that may help ease muscle pain.
- A physical therapist can treat muscle problems and teach you how to relieve pain using simple exercises or devices.
- Gentle exercise, 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.
What caused my muscle aches?
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
- Aromatase inhibitors (AIs)
- Other hormonal therapies (fulvestrant, raloxifene, tamoxifen)
- Targeted therapy (trastuzumab and T-DM1 or ado-trastuzumab emtansine)
- Radiation therapy
Medicine for cancer-related symptoms or other conditions
- White blood cell growth factors
- Drugs to treat bone loss
- Cholesterol drugs or statins
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
How can Ankr help with your muscle aches?
Don’t try to treat muscle aches by yourself in general. Use Ankr to:
(1) learn about the common symptoms and complications of muscle aches
(2) send a message to your Doctor if they use the Ankr platform*
(3) be better informed about how to prevent other muscle aches
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