What Causes Muscle Pain?

Everyone experiences muscle pain at some time in their life. Since virtually every part of your body contains muscles, aches are quite common. Usually, muscle pain goes away in a few days, but sometimes it can last months. The most common causes of muscle pain are overuse, minor injury, tension and stress.

Types of muscle pain

There are two general categories of muscle pain: localized and systemic.

Localized pain affects just one muscle, or one muscle group. Stubbing your toe or “golf elbow” are examples.   Common causes of localized pain also include sprains and strains, delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), repetitive strain injuries, muscle cramps, and muscle strain or rupture.

Systemic muscle pain is felt throughout the whole body.  You’re achy and weak all over.  That kind of muscle pain is often due to an infection, illness or side effect of medication. Other causes of systemic muscle pain can include flu, viral and staph infections, arthritis, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and lupus.

What do you do about muscle pain?

Usually, muscle pain from stress, exercise and minor injury can be treated at home with R.I.C.E. therapy and over-the-counter pain medication (like ibuprofen). In some cases gentle stretching, and avoiding weight-bearing activities, even yoga and meditation have been known to help.

If your muscle pain is accompanied by other symptoms, like trouble breathing, dizziness, a high fever and stiff neck, extreme muscle weakness, or it the pain comes with a rash, redness or swelling, you should seek medical care.

Muscle pain prevention

Preventing muscle pain usually means taking care to warm-up and cool-down muscles during exercise sessions. Stretching helps, too.  Drinking lots of water (hydration), also helps, especially on days when you are active. Even small things, like buying a new pair of shoes, or swapping out your pillow can help. The best prevention is keeping fit. Regular exercise keeps muscles toned and less likely to be injured by everyday events.