Muscle aches are extremely common. Almost everyone has experienced discomfort in their muscles at some point.Because there’s muscle tissue in nearly all parts of the body, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere. However, there’s no single cause for muscle aches and pains. While overuse or injury is common, there are other possible explanations for ongoing discomfort.
What are the most common causes of muscle aches?
Often, people who experience muscle aches can easily pinpoint the cause. This is because most instances of muscle aches 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 muscles while engaging in physically demanding work or exercise
- skipping warm-ups and cool downs
Easing muscle aches at home
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’re experiencing aches and pains
- taking an over the counter pain reliever.
- 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 3 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
When to see a doctor about muscle aches
Muscle aches aren’t always harmless, and in some instances, home treatment isn’t enough to address the underlying cause.
You should see your doctor for:
- pain that doesn’t 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 accompanied by redness or swelling
- pain that occurs soon after a medication change
- pain that occurs with an elevated temperature
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
- an inability to move the affected area of the body
Tips for preventing sore muscles
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 warmup and a cooldown into all of your exercise sessions, around five minutes each.
- Stay hydrated, especially on days when you’re 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.