Definition


Almost everyone has sore, aching muscles now and then. Muscle pain can involve a small area or your whole body, ranging from mild to excruciating.

Although most muscle aches and pains go away on their own within a short time, 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


The most common causes of muscle pain are tension, stress, overuse and minor injuries. This type of pain is usually localized, affecting just a few muscles or a small part of your body.

Systemic muscle pain — pain throughout your whole body — is more often the result of an infection, an illness or a side effect of a medication.

Common causes of muscle pain include:

  1. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome
  2. Chronic fatigue syndrome
  3. Claudication
  4. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  5. Dermatomyositis
  6. Dystonia
  7. Fibromyalgia
  8. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  9. Influenza (flu) and other viral illness (influenza-like illness)
  10. Lupus
  11. Lyme disease
  12. Medications, especially the cholesterol medications known as statins
  13. Muscle cramp
  14. Myofascial pain syndrome
  15. Polymyalgia rheumatica
  16. Polymyositis (inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness)
  17. Repetitive strain injuries
  18. Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
  19. Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  20. Sprains

When to see a doctor


Muscle pain from minor injuries, stress or exercise is usually helped with simple home treatment. 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 known tick bite or could have had a tick bite
  • A rash, especially the "bulls-eye" rash of Lyme disease
  • 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 — medications used to control cholesterol
  • Muscle pain that doesn't improve with self-care

Self-care

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 20 minutes several times a day.
  • Compression. Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation. Elevate your foot to help reduce swelling

Addison's disease

Adult Still's disease

Back pain

Bird flu (avian influenza)

Brucellosis

Cancer

Celiac disease

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Cold sore

Cyclospora infection

Dengue fever

Dermatomyositis

Ebola virus and Marburg virus

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis

Encephalitis

Endocarditis

Generalized anxiety disorder

Genital herpes

Hangovers

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

Hemophilia

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis C

Histoplasmosis

HIV/AIDS

Hypercalcemia

Hypoparathyroidism

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

Influenza (flu)

Integrative approaches to treating pain

Jet lag disorder

Legionnaires' disease

Lifestyle strategies for pain management

Listeria infection

Mixed connective tissue disease

Muscle cramp

Muscle strains

Myofascial pain syndrome

Nutrition and pain

Pain rehabilitation

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Plague

Pneumonia

Polio

One of the most feared diseases of the 20th century, polio has been eradicated from the developed world but remains a threat in less developed nations.

Polymyositis

Porphyria

Post-polio syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Pulmonary fibrosis

Salmonella infection

Self-care approaches to treating pain

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

Staph infections

Syphilis

Takayasu's arteritis

Toxic shock syndrome

Treating pain: Conventional medical care

Treating pain: Overview

Trichinosis

Understanding pain

Vasculitis

Viral hemorrhagic fevers

Yellow fever

Zika virus