mystery muscle aches
May 18, 2018 11:26 AM   Subscribe

So, you know how the day after a strenuous lower body workout--say, lots of heavy-weight squats and deadlifts, or much stair-climbing--you get that intense achiness in glutes and hamstrings that makes it painful and difficult to stand up/sit down, or go down stairs, or pick things up off the floor or whatever? Yeah, so I've been having that daily for the past several weeks. However--I have been doing, trust me, no lower body exercise whatsoever. ??????

I'm really out of shape at this point, but have in the past done pretty serious exercise, and I'm really, really familiar with the particular way lower-body DOMS feels and the ways it makes getting up, getting down, and getting around a challenge. But I have no idea why I'd be feeling that particular soreness in the absence of any kind of exercise.

No other symptoms except chronic fatigue and brain fog, which could just be work is currently super-stressful, and a somewhat elevated inflammation marker in the bloodwork my doctor did last week.

I'm meeting with him again next week, but in the meantime I'm wondering if any of you have ever experienced something like this?
posted by Kat Allison to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This happened to me while I was studying for the bar exam. I never saw a doctor about it - always assumed it was from the prolonged period of underuse. Feel better soon!
posted by sevensnowflakes at 11:52 AM on May 18, 2018

If your doctor doesn't have any suggestions, you might want to ask for a referral to see a rheumatologist.

Also, make sure you've been thoroughly screened for hypothyroidism, which commonly causes muscle aches, fatigue, and brain fog. Keep in mind that some people can appear to be "normal" on thyroid screening tests and yet have hypothyroidism; make sure to get the actual numbers for your thyroid blood test results and save them, so you can see if they change over time.
posted by chromium at 12:35 PM on May 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Is it possible you are sitting in some kind of very tense position at work due to your stress? When I sit with tightly crossed legs internally freaking out for hours at a desk, it's not as dramatic as you have described, but I usually will have some residual stiffness for a bit when I finally do get up.
posted by tautological at 12:52 PM on May 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have fibromyalgia, and this happens to me. And the fatigue and brain fog would match up. I think for a true diagnosis, you'd have to be hurting for longer than this, but you might want to keep notes on it to see if you end up fitting the criteria.

And yes, rheumatologist. They also tend to be the ones you work with for fibro.
posted by dust.wind.dude at 1:03 PM on May 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Have you had your ferritin checked? It’s a measure of iron stores and can be too low even if you’re not anemic. I’ll get sore in the large muscles of my legs while doing totally normal things, like going up one flight of stairs, when my ferritin is really low. I’d totally believe brain fog could be related too. You have to specifically ask to check your ferritin levels - it’s not part of a CBC and some doctors don’t check it if your hemoglobin is fine.

Iron infusions have helped me a lot, though some people have success getting ferritin up with just oral iron supplements.
posted by bananacabana at 1:37 PM on May 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Any chance you might be experiencing mild sciatica?
posted by erst at 2:09 PM on May 18, 2018

Does your upper back hurt? I’ve had kidney trouble that seems to affect everything from my upper back downward.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2018

I've had exactly this! And just like you, I knew the feeling as used to exercise a lot but the same - had barely been moving when I got this muscle exhaustion. Have had this twice before...the last time I got quite worried about it as I was so tired at the same time and my muscles felt just wiped out all the time and I was really sick of it. I thought I had chronic fatigue syndrome/fybromyalgia etc. Worried loads about it...then finally just gave up on that and took a really good rest, time off work. And now I can't even remember how things got better but they did within 6 months and the past years I've been totally fine and didn't think about it until now! To be honest I think it was utter exhaustion from years of stress (my mother got cancer and died, I was living abroad, flying back and forth for years, trying to keep everything going) and it needed more than a few weeks of taking it easy to get rid of that wrecked feeling in my muscles.

So yes...maybe you've been overdoing it? The body works in mysterious ways. I had all the tests...found nothing. For you this may just last a short while. Might just be a sign telling you to slow down a little.
posted by cornflakegirl at 4:28 PM on May 18, 2018

This is super dumb and out there, but I have had this during periods of intense stress and it's been because I've had very high activity dreams about martial arts, horseback riding, running away from predators, etc. Basically, stress dreams for me = dream activity that activates my lower body muscles as though I'm actually doing it only I'm not moving around.

So, uh, you're not having a lot of stair climbing dreams are you?
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:12 PM on May 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I’m starting to get a cold/the flu, I’ll get achey like that. Any chance you’re coming down with something?
posted by Weeping_angel at 5:31 PM on May 18, 2018

I would put money on it being sciatica. I have exactly the same thing—feels like a pulled muscle in my buttcheek. And for the same reason—went a really long time without doing core exercises and my core is weakened. I also have a tingling/pinchy feeling in my left calf that moves around a bit.

The fatigue and brain fog could have a lot of causes so it’s worth getting that checked out too (I personally had low ferritin and was successful in raising it with oral iron supplements alone, it wasn’t fast but it was effective), but if you’re super stressed over work and not getting enough sleep, that alone could do it.

To combat the effects of stress, I would suggest a magnesium citrate supplement (which also helps relieve muscle aches and tension, I got mine at Vitamin Shoppe) and making sure you get a full 8 hours of sleep for as many nights as you can manage it. And for the back, I would recommend doing body weight core exercises at least every other day. I do a few sets of plank, bridge, side plank, and quadruped. This is a good page with photos of exercises you can do. My symptoms have alleviated noticeably after a few weeks of those.

Be advised that when you get to a Certain Age (for me it was about 40) you start feeling achy and sore when you don’t work out. I would highly recommend getting some form of exercise in. I let my health and fitness deteriorate while I was finishing my degree, and that was not a good decision because I felt much shittier, earned myself a case of anemia, and hurt all the time. I’m finally getting back on an okay track after a good couple years of dealing with it. Take the time to take care of yourself. It’s cheaper than doctors.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:56 PM on May 18, 2018

Best answer: I had symptoms like that and was diagnosed by my rheumatologist with polymyalgia rheumatica.
posted by Rad_Boy at 7:26 PM on May 19, 2018

It might honestly just be a virus. For me, body aches (especially in big muscles) are often the earliest sign of some kind of viral infection. I have definitely thought “But I didn’t go to the gym? Why am I achy?” (or “Ugh, everything aches when I get up. I must be getting old.”) and then come down with an obvious cold in the next 1-2 days.
posted by snowmentality at 8:30 PM on May 19, 2018

Response by poster: I just realized I forgot to loop back on this--I saw a rheumatologist, and it is indeed (ta daaa!) polymyalgia rheumatica. Which is apparently fairly common in older women, but I'd never heard of it. The good news is that low-dose prednisone clears up the symptoms quickly and thoroughly. (The bad news is that prednisone messes up my stomach and makes me put on weight, but I'll have to deal with that.)

Thanks, everyone!
posted by Kat Allison at 3:31 PM on October 15, 2018

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