Muscle ache is a pain in the muscle. The pain may be in just one small part of the body or throughout the body. The pain may be mild or serious and can affect your ability to carry out daily tasks. The affected areas may appear swollen, red or feel painful to touch. In most cases, muscle pain goes away after some time, with or without treatment.
Stress, tension and overuse are common causes of muscle pain. Other causes include:
- An accident or injury or sustained pressure on a muscle, like when receiving a punch or when lifting a very heavy object.
- Excessive exercise can result in muscle pain.
- Viral infections, such as influenza or lassa fever, can cause general muscle pain.
- You may experienced muscle pain as a side-effect from using medicines like antimalarials, statins and antibiotics.
- Auto-immune diseases can be a cause of muscle pain.
- A lack of vitamin D.
Minor muscle pain as a result of stress or overuse will go away with time or over-the-counter treatment. However, visit the doctor if:
- The muscle pain is getting worse over time.
- You have chest pain.
- The muscle pain happens suddenly or shortly after you receive an insect bite.
- The muscle pain occurs shortly after you begin taking a medicine (e.g statins).
- You have a high fever and stiff neck along with the muscle pain.
- Tingling or numbness of your arms or legs.
You can prevent muscle aches caused by avoiding overuse or stretching before exercise. You can follow self-care tips to reduce the severity of the discomfort you feel.
You can not prevent muscle aches caused by disease conditions like infections, swelling or other conditions. By treating the underlying conditions, you can prevent complications and injury.
A specific routine called R.I.C.E can help in managing muscle aches. They include:
- Rest: relax so that your body can repair the affected muscles.
- Ice: you can use a wrapper or plastic bag to wrap ice and place it on the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times each day. If the muscle pain is all over your body, take a cold bath.
- Compression: a bandage can help to reduce swelling. You can also use rubs (e.g. methyl salicylate or menthol containing gels) to massage the affected areas to reduce swelling and pain.
- Elevation: if the muscle aches occur in body parts (like arms and legs) that you can raise, then do so. Raising you legs or arms on a pillow will reduce swelling.
- Your doctor will perform some blood tests to check for infections that may be causing your muscle pain.
- The underlying cause will determine the treatment recommended. Your healthcare provider can recommend the use of pain relievers like ibuprofen, diclofenac and paracetamol.
- In patients who cannot take certain pain relievers, celecoxib may be an alternative as long as you don't have a heart problem.
- Your healthcare provider can add physical therapy to medical treatment to speed up recovery.
Muscle pain usually resolves within a few days to weeks. Taking pain medications can make you recover faster. Regular exercise to strengthen your muscles will help to avoid future muscle aches. Do not forget to stretch before engaging in exercise to reduce your chances of injuring your muscles.