Muscle aches, also known as myalgias, can occur in a specific area of your body or can be felt over the whole body. The nature of these aches may vary – from deep, constant and dull to sharp and occurring at irregular intervals. It may co-exist with joint pains and can be difficult to tell one from the other. Like joint pains , muscle aches can be due to non-cancer causes such as strains or injuries, but may also be due to cancer and its treatment.

Pain from muscle aches can lead to fatigue and affect a person’s ability to carry out his or her daily activities. It is important to inform your doctor or nurse if you develop any muscle aches, so that they can be managed promptly to minimise discomfort and impact on your quality of life.


Causes of Muscle aches

  • Cancer occurring in, or pressing against a muscle
  • Cancer that cause overproduction of white blood cells
  • Some types of chemotherapy (e.g. docetaxel, paclitaxel, vincristine)
  • Hormonal therapy (e.g. letrozole, tamoxifen)
  • Targeted therapy (e.g. herceptin)
  • Immunotherapy (e.g. pembrolizumab, nivolumab)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Other medications (e.g. white blood cell growth factors, bisphosphonates like zoledronic acid, cholesterol medicines like simvastatin)
  • Unrelated to cancer and its treatment (e.g. fibromyalgia, infection, muscle overuse through activities, muscle injuries through accidents)


What you need to look out for

The duration and area of muscle ache can vary from person to person. Some symptoms you may experience include:

  • Pain in any muscle of your body, whether moving or resting
  • Pain in your joints
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Feeling low in your mood


How it can be treated

Your doctor will first determine the cause of your muscle pain, by examining the painful area and asking you more questions about the pain. The cause and treatment for muscle pains in one specific area can be different from muscle pains affecting multiple areas. Additional tests (e.g. xrays, blood tests) may be arranged if necessary. Based on the cause of the pain, your doctor may:

  • Prescribe medications to help manage the pain. These may include paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like celecoxib to relieve pain, corticosteroids to help decrease inflammation and swelling, muscle relaxants and/or antibiotics for infection if any.
  • Refer you to see a rehabilitation specialist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist, who may recommend medications, acupuncture, massages, exercises or assistive aids to help you manage the muscle pains.

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