Many different medical disorders can cause aching or swelling in your muscles, including bone problems, too much exercise without proper conditioning or too little exercise, says Dr William G. Crook, an allergist in Jackson, Tennessee. ‘But still another cause of musculoskeletal discomfort is allergy.’
‘Almost all patients with extensive food allergy complain of muscular aching,’ says Frederic Speer, a professor of pediatrics at both the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri, and director of the Speer Allergy Clinic in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. ‘The most commonly affected muscles are in the neck, upper back and [arms and legs].’
In fact, food allergy is a common but often overlooked explanation for ‘growing pains’ in children. An allergic youngster may complain that his legs ache even though his posture is good and he doesn’t have flat feet,’ says Dr Crook.
One of Dr Crook’s patients was an eleven-year-old girl with sore neck and shoulder muscles, who also had frequent bouts of wry neck (muscle contractions along the portion of the spine that runs through the neck). Various doctors had incorrectly diagnosed her problem as everything from arthritis to rheumatic fever. Eventually, her muscle aches disappeared completely when she simply eliminated corn from her diet.
Allergy-related muscle aches can also accompany hay fever, eczema, headaches, stomach problems or other forms of allergy. You may not associate your soreness with allergy at all. Yet when allergies are brought under control, the muscle aches may disappear.
For instance, an allergy doctor reports the case of a thirty-four-year-old man who had muscular pain in his neck and shoulders for fifteen years. He also had other symptoms typical of allergy, such as post-nasal drip. Tests showed that he was allergic to several foods. After he stayed away from milk, wheat, fruit, artificial flavorings and condiments for two months, his pain went away completely.
Dust, pollen, chemicals or other airborne allergens can also cause muscle aches. If you always wake up achy in the morning, you could be allergic to mattress dust, in which case using a mattress cover and thoroughly vacuuming the mattress will help. If you feel achy after a night of partying, alcohol or cigarette smoke could be at fault. And if your muscle aches are at their worst during spring, summer and fall, pollen allergy could be to blame.
Such was the case reported by an allergy doctor of a twenty-five-year-old woman whose arms, shoulders, neck, upper back and chest were sore. She suffered all year, but ached more than ever in spring, summer and autumn. Skin tests showed that she was allergic to several grass and tree pollens. Allergy injections for pollen wiped out all her symptoms.
In people with generalized muscular aches, allergy control relieves not only muscle soreness – it relieves the worry that they’re neurotic or hypochondriacs, imagining soreness that has no real cause. Relief gives them peace of body and peace of mind.