Muscle aches, or myalgia, are extremely common. Almost everybody has experienced discomfort in their muscles at some point.
Because there is muscle tissue in nearly all parts of the body, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere.
Often, people who experience muscle aches can easily pinpoint the cause. This is because most instances of myalgia result from too much stress, tension, or physical activity. Some common causes include:
- muscle tension in one or more areas of the body
- overusing the muscle during physical activity
- injuring the muscle while engaging in physically demanding work or exercise
Not all muscle aches are related to stress, tension, and physical activity. Some medical explanations for myalgia include:
- infections, such as the flu, polio, or bacterial infections
- autoimmune disorders such as lupus, dermatomyositis, and polymyositis
- use of certain medications or drugs, such as statins, ACE inhibitors, or cocaine
- thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- hypokalemia (low potassium)
Muscle aches often respond well to home treatment. Some measures you can take to relieve muscle discomfort from injuries and overuse include:
- resting the area of the body where you are experiencing aches and pains
- taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen
- applying ice to the affected area to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation
You should use ice for one to three days following a strain or sprain, and apply heat for any pain that remains after three days.
Other measures that may provide relief from muscle pain include:
- gently stretching the muscles
- avoiding high-impact activities until after the muscle pain goes away
- avoiding weight-lifting sessions until the muscle pain is resolved
- giving yourself time to rest
- doing stress-relieving activities and exercises such as yoga and meditation to relieve tension
Muscle aches are not always harmless, and in some instances, home treatment isn’t enough to address the underlying cause. Myalgia can also be a sign that something is seriously wrong in your body.
You should see your doctor for:
- pain that does not go away after a few days of home treatment
- severe muscle pain that arises without a clear cause
- muscle pain that occurs along with a rash
- muscle pain that occurs after a tick bite
- myalgia accompanied by redness or swelling
- pain that occurs soon after a change in the medications you take
- pain that occurs with an elevated temperature
The following can be a sign of a medical emergency. Get to the hospital as soon as possible if you experience any of the following along with aching muscles:
- a sudden onset of water retention or a reduction in urine volume
- difficulty swallowing
- vomiting or running a fever
- trouble catching your breath
- stiffness in your neck area
- muscles that are weak
- inability to move the affected area of the body
If your muscle pain is caused by tension or physical activity, take these measures to lower your risk of developing muscle pain in the future:
- Stretch your muscles before engaging in physical activity and after workouts.
- Incorporate a warm-up and a cooldown into all of your exercise sessions.
- Stay hydrated, especially on days when you are active.
- Engage in regular exercise to help promote optimal muscle tone.
- Get up and stretch regularly if you work at a desk or in an environment that puts you at risk for muscle strain or tension.
People who work at a desk should make an effort to get up and stretch at least every 60 minutes.
Your sore muscles might be due to something other than tension and physical activity. In this case, your doctor will best be able to advise you on how to fully resolve your muscle pain. The first priority will be to treat the primary condition.