Diabetes can cause a range of complications, the most prevalent among them being a change in the musculoskeletal system, a joint term used to refer to your muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. These changes can lead to painful muscles, swelling and limited muscular flexibility in fingers, hands, wrists, shoulders, neck, spine and feet in diabetic patients.
With its incidence rate increasing day by day, diabetes has become the leading cause of progressive wasting and weakening of the muscles, making it excruciatingly painful for diabetic patients to carry out their daily activities. For reasons unknown, certain patients are more susceptible to experience this connective tissue disorder than others. However, the causes of diabetic muscle pain have been clearly outlined, all of which lead to the inflammation and damage of the muscular tissues.
What Causes Muscle Pain in Diabetic Patients
Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic neuropathy, a condition characterized by the pathology of nerves that innervate various parts of the body, especially feet and legs. Proximal neuropathy or nerve damage in the lower body parts, specifically targets the muscles leading to the weakening of muscles in the legs. This causes numbness, tingling, burning sensation and muscle pain, thereby limiting the range of motion and making walking difficult in diabetic patients.
Muscular dystrophies and Myopathies can be caused by endocrine disorders like diabetes, inflammation of muscles, genetic mutations, etc. Metabolic factors like high glucose levels and low levels of insulin serves as a primary cause of muscular atrophies, a condition referred to the wasting away of muscles in hands and feet.
They are most often an outcome of diabetic neuropathies that lead to a reduction in the strength of muscles, located along the back of the ankle and the lower leg. This in turn, leads to a reduction in the volume of the muscles in the affected regions of the leg. The muscular pain also leads to an improper body posture in diabetic patients who tend to put maximum weight on one side of the leg. They tend to walk with a limp so as to avoid putting their weight on the painful muscles, thus leading to an awkward gait in diabetic patients.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Excess amounts of glucose in the blood ruptures and damages the walls of the arteries, thus leading to the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arterial walls. This in turn, causes narrowing of arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs thereby, preventing the circulation of adequate amounts of blood to the muscles present in the limbs. This can lead to a distressing condition, characterized by numbness and painful muscles in diabetic patients.
Muscular damage can also be caused by mutations in the genes that are responsible for expressing proteins like collagen and elastic fibers that are essential for maintaining the integrity of the muscular tissue and for imparting strength to muscles. Hence, a genetic predisposition for acquiring these mutations can also result in muscle pains in diabetic patients.
Lack of Physical Activity
Muscle is known to be the primary site for the conversion of glucose to energy. However, when diabetic patients develop a resistance to insulin or completely lack insulin in their bodies, this conversion is hindered, thus leading to the accumulation of excess sugar in and around the muscles.
This condition is exacerbated in patients who lead a sedentary lifestyle since, exercise mimics the activity of insulin in the body and aids the muscles in utilizing the excess sugar as a source of energy. Moreover, muscle damage induced by diabetic neuropathies are worsened by the lack of exercise, which works wonders in strengthening weaker muscles.
Poor Blood Circulation
Laden with excess sugar, it takes longer for the blood to reach the inflamed muscles thus, making muscle repair a daunting task for the body.
When injured, muscles are capable of repairing themselves, provided that the blood carries the essential nutrients required for promoting growth and repair of the muscular tissue. Unfortunately, even if you consume sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals, the excess sugar in the bloodstream hinders them from being delivered to the site of inflammation in the muscles.
Many diabetic patients report muscle aches, persistent muscle soreness and frozen shoulders, which most often occur as a side effect of certain medications used to treat insulin deficiencies. Metformin is one such example but there could be other medications too that are responsible for causing muscle pains in diabetic patients.
However, every individual’s body reacts differently to anti-diabetic medications, making it impossible to categorize medications on the basis of the adverse effects that they cause. Hence, never hesitate to inform your doctor about experiencing a pain in your muscles and get your prescriptions changed to those which suit your body better.
Deficiency of Minerals in the Body
Having a well-balanced diet is crucially important for diabetic patients, not only for controlling blood sugar levels but also for replenishing your body with the nutrients that are lost while undergoing treatment for diabetes. Diabetic patient tend to have lower potassium, magnesium and sodium levels due to the large doses of insulin and other fluids administered in their bodies to treat diabetic ketoacidosis. Adequate amounts of potassium are required by the body to regulate the proper functioning of muscles.
Magnesium is needed for maintaining normal muscle and nerve function. Most importantly, it acts as a co-enzyme for many metabolic pathways involved in catabolizing and mobilizing glucose in the body to be utilized as the main source of energy. Medications can also deprive the body of sodium, calcium and creatine that play an important role in providing a quick source of energy for strengthening muscles and promoting nerve transmission. Also, hyperglycemia promotes the excretion of these minerals in the urine, further aggravating muscular damage. Hence, a deficiency of any of these minerals can lead to muscle weakness of the limbs and often leads to involuntary contractions of muscles or leg cramps that can be very painful.
Researchers suggest that a person may experience muscle pain due to one of these causes or can have a multi-factorial predisposition to any of the factors mentioned above. Since, the weakening of muscles in diabetic patients is a very slow process, it mostly goes unnoticed if the progress of this condition is not monitored well. Hence, it is important to stay vigilant and bear in mind the above mentioned causes, so as to adopt preventive measures for avoiding muscle pains associated with diabetes.