What is muscle pain?
Muscle pain, or myalgia, is a sign of an injury, infection, disease or other health problem. You may feel a deep, steady ache or random sharp pains. Some people have muscle pain all over, while others have it in specific areas. Everyone experiences muscle pain differently.
Who might get muscle pain?
People of all ages and genders can have sore muscles. When you try a new physical activity or switch up your exercise routine, you may experience delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Muscle aches may come on six to 12 hours after a workout and last up to 48 hours. You feel pain as the muscles heal and get stronger.
What other symptoms may occur with muscle pain?
In addition to muscle pain, you may also have:
What causes muscle pain?
Many things can cause muscle pain, including:
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Neuromuscular disorders.
What autoimmune diseases cause muscle pain?
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself. A healthy immune system fights off germs and infections.
Autoimmune diseases that cause muscle pain include:
- Inflammatory myopathies, such as inclusion body myositis and polymyositis.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
What types of infections cause muscle pain?
Types of infections that cause muscle aches include:
- Colds and flu.
- Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (infections spread through tick bites).
- Trichinosis (a foodborne illness).
What types of injuries cause muscle pain?
When you repeatedly use the same muscles at work or during exercise, you may develop sore muscles from overuse.
Other types of injuries that cause sore muscles include:
- Abdominal strains.
- Back strains and sprains.
- Broken bones and traumatic injuries.
- Myofascial pain syndrome from repetitive movements (overuse).
What medications cause muscle pain?
Certain medications and therapies can cause temporary or chronic pain. Some medicines cause inflammation around muscle cells (myositis) or activate muscle pain receptors. These treatments include:
- Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- High blood pressure medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
- Statins to lower cholesterol levels.
What neuromuscular disorders cause muscle pain?
Neuromuscular disorders affect muscles and the nerves that control them. They can cause muscle weakness and pain. These conditions include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).
- Muscular dystrophy.
- Myasthenia gravis.
- Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
What other conditions cause muscle pain?
Other conditions that also cause muscle pain include:
- Cancers, such as sarcomas (soft tissue cancers) and leukemia (blood cancer).
- Chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Compartment syndrome (a buildup of pressure in muscles).
- Imbalance of electrolytes (minerals in your blood, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium).
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD).
- Stress and tension.
Care and Treatment
How do healthcare providers diagnose muscle pain’s cause?
If you don’t know what’s causing muscle pain, or the pain is severe or chronic, your healthcare provider may order tests, such as:
- Blood tests to check enzyme, hormone and electrolyte levels and test for infections.
- MRI or CT scan to look for muscle injury or damage.
- Electromyography to measure electrical activity in nerves and muscles.
- Muscle biopsy to look for muscle tissue changes that may indicate neuromuscular diseases.
How is muscle pain managed or treated?
Depending on the cause, these steps may help you feel better:
- Rest and elevate the painful area.
- Alternate between ice packs to reduce inflammation and heat to improve blood flow.
- Soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts or take a warm shower.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen).
- Try complementary therapies, such as massage, meditation or acupuncture.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I call the doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Chest pain.
- Loss of bladder control.
- Muscle weakness.
- New or worsening pain.
- Numbness or tingling in limbs.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Almost everyone has muscle aches and pains now and then. For temporary muscle pain, rest, stretching and pain medicines can help. Chronic or severe muscle pain makes it difficult to do the things you love. If you have a condition that causes chronic muscle pain, talk to your healthcare provider about therapies that can help.