20 January 2021 |

Fatigue and muscular pain: possible causes

How many times have your muscles ached when waking up or you’ve felt drowsy, exhausted and exclaimed “I’m always tired and weak!” or “I’m sleepy all the time!” or “I ache all over”.

Feeling tired all the time, weak, with aching muscle or having difficulty concentrating are all frustrating conditions that can have many causes. This condition is also known as asthenia.

What does asthenia mean? Asthenia comes from the Greek, ἀσθένεια asthèneia, in other words a lack of strength, low energy and consequent fatigue and reduced reaction to external stimuli. Asthenia in itself is a symptom that can be linked to both mental and physical issues. Sometimes it’s simply a lack of sleep, combined with stressful conditions that put our muscles under a lot of strain even without us noticing, all of which can be resolved with a little rest and a change in lifestyle.

This article looks at the main causes, the times in life when this symptom is most common – such as breastfeeding or pregnancy – and some advice on how to prevent it happening.

Possible causes of tiredness and muscle pain: nutritional deficiencies

Many nutritional deficiencies occur with these symptoms, for example low levels of:

  • iron
  • folic Acid
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • calcium
  • Vitamins in general

These deficiencies can make us feel tired or weaken our muscles. In cases like these, a simple blood test can detect any nutritional deficiencies which can then be treated with an appropriate diet or specific nutritional supplements.

Stress, menopause, breastfeeding: this is when asthenia can occur most frequently

Exhaustion, tiredness, pain in the legs and widespread pain in the body are all symptoms that frequently occur at particular times of life. Let’s look at these in more detail:

  • Stress: We all experience times in our lives that are best defined as “stressful”; times in which our bodies are required to respond promptly and with a high level of energy that we often do not have. This condition can be a consequence of events that are linked to either our personal or professional world.
  • Menopause: A physiological and very delicate moment for women, normally occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, even though pre-menopause is an increasingly recognised condition, before the age of 45, or late-onset menopause, after the age of 55.
  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Another two moments where women are those affected, in which low iron levels, high energy expenditure and the appearance of hormones that regulate the process can be added to physical fatigue due to the weight of the foetus, and often incorrect posture during breastfeeding. Not to mention sleep deprivation increasingly associated with the birth of a new baby.
  • Change of seasons: Variations in pressure, temperature and humidity can exacerbate bone pain or general feelings of fatigue. Whether the change from summer to autumn or from winter to spring, our body needs to be ready to react to this change.

How to stop the symptoms of tiredness and muscle pain?

The symptoms of asthenia can be prevented and limited by acting mainly on two factors: Lifestyle and diet. How?

  • A healthy lifestyle. Drink plenty of water is one of the first recommendations given to those who want to improve their daily habits, and in particular we need to drink around two litres of water every day. We should also avoid smoking and alcohol, but above all we should move around: thirty minutes of physical activity per day, whether a walk or cycle ride, will help your body regenerate. Not to be underestimated is also the quality and amount of sleep we get, which should never fall below seven/eight hours.
  • Healthy diet. A varied diet is essential for our body. In fact it guarantees the intake of all nutrients we need to deal with all the situations described above. For example, a healthy diet includes eating cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruit and low quantities of salt in our meals. The presence of sugar should also be limited, including sugar-based drinks, and sweet food.

What are the possible causes?

As well as nutritional deficiencies, fatigue and muscle pain can be symptoms related to other problems too, such as:

  1. Anaemia in particular, which can in fact also result from nutritional deficiencies, is too often underestimated today despite the fact that it affects almost 25% of the world’s population. Furthermore, an important risk factor is that this condition can arise as a consequence of other diseases, such as chronic kidney disease, inflammatory chronic bowel disease, heart failure, severe uterine bleeding and during chemotherapy sessions.
  2. A possible endocrine cause of fatigue and muscle pain is hypothyroidism, a dysfunction of the thyroid gland, which produces fewer hormones than it should. In this case, blood tests and a visit to the endocrinologist is required, who may then prescribe a targeted therapy.
  3. Other causes that can make us feel tired and weak include autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia, ‘latent’ infectious diseases such as mononucleosis and, unfortunately, degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis. All these pathologies can be diagnosed after a visit to the doctor and possibly a series of physical and neurological examinations.
  4. Finally, let’s not forget stomach and intestinal diseases (such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease) associated with problems of malabsorption.

In short, there is a wide range of possible causes, which should be assessed with your doctor on the basis of other associated symptoms.