What is muscle pain?

Muscle pain, also called myalgia, refers to pain or discomfort 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 pain, problems with other kinds of muscle, such as smooth muscle and cardiac muscle, can also cause pain. Smooth muscles are found in the walls of hollow organs in your body, such as your stomach, bladder, and blood vessels, and play a big 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. Muscles can become painful due to various diseases, disorders and conditions, including infection, trauma, autoimmune diseases, neurological and muscular disorders, malignancy (cancer), and even some medications. Muscle pain can also involve the ligaments, tendons and fascia, which are the soft tissues that connect the muscles, bones and organs.

You may feel muscle pain in a specific muscle of the body, such as a back muscle or leg muscle, or you may feel more diffuse muscle pain all over, such as when you have the flu (influenza). A person with chest pain who is having a heart attack or angina is feeling cardiac muscle pain. Menstrual cramps are a type of smooth muscle pain in the uterus.

Temporary skeletal muscle pain is 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. Abstaining from the activity, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications generally helps relieve the pain associated with muscle overuse or injury. Muscle pain can also be caused by serious diseases, disorders and conditions, such as fibromyalgia, infections and dermatomyositis, which is an inflammatory muscle disease.

Muscle pain can be a symptom of a serious disease, disorder or condition, such as a severe muscle tear or infection. Seek prompt medical care if your muscle pain is persistent, becoming worse, or causing you concern.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have difficulty breathing or swallowing, chest pain, severe muscle weakness, inability to move a body part, or stiff neck accompanied by vomiting and a high fever.


What other symptoms might occur with muscle pain?

Muscle pain may occur with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, muscle pain that is caused by an injury may be accompanied by bruising and swelling of the area. Additional symptoms that may occur with muscle pain include:

  • Depression Read more about muscle painsymptoms


What causes muscle pain?

Skeletal muscle pain is 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. However, in s... Read more about muscle paincauses

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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