Definition of muscle pain
Almost everyone has sore, aching muscles now and then. Muscle pain (myalgia) can range from mild to excruciating. Though it often goes away in a few days, sometimes muscle pain can linger for months. Muscle pain can develop almost anywhere in your body, including your neck, back, legs and even your hands.
Causes of muscle pain
The most common causes of muscle pain are tension, stress, overuse and minor injuries. This type of pain is usually localized, affecting just one or more muscles or parts of your body. Systemic muscle pain, which you feel throughout your body, is different. It’s more often the result of an infection, an illness or a side effect of a medication.
Common causes of muscle pain include:
- Chronic exertional compartment syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Hypothyroidism (a thyroid disorder)
- Influenza (flu)
- Lyme disease
- Medications, especially statins
- Muscle cramp: How to provide relief
- Muscle strain or rupture
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Polymyalgia rheumatica
- Post-polio syndrome
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition in which muscle fibers break down and enter your bloodstream — sometimes as a side effect of using statin drugs
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Sprains and strains
- Staph infections
- Viral infections
When to see a doctor
Home treatment usually relieves muscle pain from minor injuries, stress or exercise. Muscle pain from severe injuries or systemic disease is often serious and requires medical care.
Get immediate medical care if you have muscle pain with:
- Trouble breathing or dizziness
- Extreme muscle weakness
- A high fever and stiff neck
Schedule an office visit if you have:
- A tick bite or rash
- Muscle pain, especially in your calves, that occurs with exercise and resolves with rest
- Signs of infection, such as redness and swelling, around a sore muscle
- Muscle pain after you start taking or increase the dosage of a medication — particularly statins, which are used to control cholesterol
- Muscle pain that lasts longer than a week
Muscle pain that occurs during an activity usually signals a “pulled” or strained muscle. These types of injuries usually respond well to R.I.C.E. therapy:
- Rest. Take a break from your normal activities.
- Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on the sore area for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
- Compression. Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
- Elevation. Elevate your foot to help reduce swelling.