What are muscle aches?

Muscle aches, also called myalgias, refer to any kind of discomfort or pain in any muscle of the body.

Muscles include skeletal muscles that are attached to bones and contract to move your body. Although we often think of skeletal muscle aches and pains, problems with other kinds of muscle, such as smooth muscle and cardiac muscle, can also cause aches. Smooth muscles are found in the walls of hollow organs in your body, such as your stomach, bladder, and blood vessels, and they play an important role in normal organ function. Cardiac muscle, which makes up the heart, is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body.

Muscles respond to a command from the brain and nervous system or other stimulus, such as a tap from a reflex hammer during a physical examination. Muscles contract when stimulated and relax after a contraction. Any muscle can be affected by various diseases, disorders and conditions, including infection, trauma, autoimmune diseases, neurological and muscular disorders, malignancy (cancer), and even some medications. Muscle aches and pains can also involve the ligaments, tendons, and fascia, which are the soft tissues that connect the muscles, bones and organs.

You may feel muscle aches and pains in a specific area of the body, such as your neck or back, or you may feel aches and pains all over, such as when you have the flu (influenza). Temporary skeletal muscle aches are often caused by minor muscle strain due to an awkward movement or overuse. This type of pain often involves just one or very few muscles and is relatively acute and intense. Usually abstaining from the activity, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications help relieve the aches and pain associated with muscle overuse or injury. Muscle aches and pains can also be related to muscle cramping, which is often due to abnormal signaling from the nerves that supply the muscles.

Muscle aches and pains can also be caused by serious diseases, disorders and conditions, such as fibromyalgia, infection and dermatomyositis, which is an inflammatory muscle disease.

Muscle aches can be a sign of a serious disease, disorder or condition, such as an infection of the muscles or systemic lupus erythematosus. Seek prompt medical care if your muscle aches are persistent or causing you concern.

In addition, meningitis can cause muscle pain in the neck, and chest pain that is caused by a heart attack is a type of cardiac muscle ache. If you, or someone you are with, have chest pain, difficulty breathing or swallowing, change in consciousness, muscle weakness, inability to move a body part, high fever, vomiting, or stiff neck, seek immediate medical care (call 911).


What other symptoms might occur with muscle aches?

Muscle aches may occur with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, skeletal muscle aches that are due to an injury may be accompanied by bruising and swelling of the area. Muscle aches that are due to a disorder affecting your whole body, such as an infection, ma... Read more about muscle achessymptoms


What causes muscle aches?

Skeletal muscle aches and pains are most often caused by injury or trauma resulting in muscle strain or tear. A muscle strain occurs when a few muscle fibers are damaged, whereas a muscle tear is a large number of muscle fibers that are ripped apart or torn.

A torn tendon can also lead to muscle pain. Muscles and tendons are capable of repairing themselves when they are injured. H... Read more about muscle achescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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