Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) produces a wide range of unpredictable symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath and achy joints and muscles. For many IPF sufferers, these symptoms take a tremendous toll to the point where you find yourself leading a fairly inactive lifestyle. The pain of achy joints and muscles, in particular, can drain your overall quality of life from day to day.
The good news is there are things you can do to alleviate achy joints and muscles. The trick to doing this lies in strengthening the body systems that regulate inflammation and blood-oxygen levels. Breathing exercises, adopting a light exercise routine, and systemic enzyme therapy all offer effective approaches to help alleviate aching joints and muscles. Keep reading to find out more.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: The Fibrin Factor
Compared to other forms of lung disease, lung tissue scarring is one of the distinguishing features of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The progressive nature of this scarring accounts for why IPF continues to worsen over time. Scarring, in any area of the body, results from the body’s attempt to repair injuries. This injury repair process uses a material known as fibrin, a protein-based, mesh-like substance that’s supposed to replace the injured area with fresh, healthy tissue.
In IPF, an abnormal repair process causes the excess fibrin production that results in scarring or fibrosis. This scarring progresses to the point where the lungs can no longer transport the necessary oxygen supplies throughout the body. Breathing becomes more difficult and mucus accumulates in the lungs. In effect, fibrosis kills off the lung’s cells, one by one. While there’s no known treatment able to stop or reverse progressive lung scarring, alternative treatment approaches, like systemic enzyme therapy, work to address the cellular and chemical imbalances that play a part in the disease progression.
What Causes Aching Joints and Muscles in IPF?
The body’s joints and muscles rely on adequate supplies of oxygen to function normally. If oxygen levels run low, inflammation can develop. When this happens, achy joints and muscles are the result.
Like points of injury along the lungs, inflamed joint and muscle tissues also trigger the injury repair process that gives rise to fibrin production. These developments account for why rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have a higher risk of developing IPF. Inflammation plays a key role in both conditions.
3 Ways to Improve Aching Joints and Muscles
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Low oxygen levels in the bloodstream cause much of the discomfort experienced with achy joints and muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises offer a way to train the body to breathe the “right way.” Also known as belly breathing, this technique engages the diaphragm muscle, which sits between the chest and abdomen. This muscle is positioned in such a way that it can help the lungs take in more air by drawing them outward. In turn, the diaphragm muscle helps expel air from the lungs as it moves back up.
The diaphragmatic breathing exercise involves breathing in through your nose for two seconds and then out through your mouth through pursed-lips for two seconds and repeating. When inhaling, pull from your abdomen so that it moves outward as air enters your lungs. Also, it helps to press down on your belly as you exhale to ensure your diaphragm is doing most of the work.
2. Serrapeptase Systemic Enzyme Therapy
Serrapeptase, a proteolytic enzyme, has traditionally been used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Proteolytic enzymes naturally break down proteins into amino acids, which are smaller components. The anti-inflammatory effects of Serrapeptase are believed to result from its ability to thin out the fluids that accumulate at sites of injury. This, in turn, allows fluids to drain from inflamed sites. These effects may provide relief for achy joints and muscles.
Serrapeptase may also reduce the fluid build-up in the lungs that accompanies IPF. A research study published in the Journal of Respirology set out to observe the effects of serrapeptase on mucus build-up in the lungs in people with chronic airway disease. Researchers worked with two groups of participants–a treatment group and a control group. The treatment group received 30 milligrams of serrapeptase a day for four weeks. Results from the study showed a significant increase in participants’ ability to discharge mucus build-up along with a marked decrease in overall mucus build-up inside the lungs.
3. Regular Exercise
Symptoms of IPF such as shortness of breath and achy joints and muscles can make it difficult to exercise. That being so, not exercising only creates a vicious cycle of declining health. Interestingly enough, some form of regular exercise, such as short walks, can go a long way towards helping relieve persistent aches and pains. Not unlike systemic enzyme therapy, exercise promotes the types of chemical and physical processes that support the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Along with pain relief, you can expect to experience increased energy, improved sleep, decrease in stress levels, stronger muscles and increased blood-oxygen levels when you exercise on a regular basis.
A research study appearing in the Journal of Respiration examined the effects exercise training has on people with IPF. Study participants engaged in a 12-week program of exercising two times a week for 60 minutes. Results from the study showed participants experienced improved lung capacity, increased exercise tolerance and also improved heart function.
Things to Consider
While aching joints and muscles may seem like par for the course in IPF, you can still take steps to relieve pain symptoms. In effect, breathing exercises, regular exercise and systemic enzyme therapy all work to support the physiological processes that increase blood-oxygen levels. Still, always be sure to consult with your doctor before trying new approaches.