Muscle aches and pains are common and can involve more than 1 muscle. Muscle pain also can involve ligaments, tendons, and fascia. Fascia are the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones, and organs.
Muscle pain is most often related to tension, overuse, or muscle injury from exercise or physically demanding work. The pain tends to involve specific muscles and starts during or just after the activity. It is often obvious which activity is causing the pain.
Muscle pain also can be a sign of conditions affecting your whole body. For example, some infections (including the flu) and disorders that affect connective tissues throughout the body (such as lupus) can cause muscle pain.
One common cause of muscle aches and pain is fibromyalgia, a condition that causes tenderness in your muscles and surrounding soft tissue, sleep difficulties, fatigue, and headaches.
The most common causes of muscle aches and pains are:
Muscle pain may also be due to:
For muscle pain from overuse or injury, rest the affected body part and take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Apply ice for the first 24 to 72 hours after injury to reduce pain and inflammation. After that, heat often feels more soothing.
Muscle aches from overuse and fibromyalgia often respond well to massage. Gentle stretching exercises after a long rest period are also helpful.
Regular exercise can help restore proper muscle tone. Walking, cycling, and swimming are good aerobic activities to try. A physical therapist can teach you stretching, toning, and aerobic exercises to help you feel better and stay pain-free. Begin slowly and increase workouts gradually. Avoid high-impact aerobic activities and weight lifting when injured or while in pain.
Be sure to get plenty of sleep and try to reduce stress. Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to help you sleep and relax.
If home measures aren't working, your health care provider may prescribe medicine or physical therapy, or refer you to a specialized pain clinic.
If your muscle aches are due to a specific disease, follow the instructions of your provider to treat the primary illness.
These steps may help lower the risk for getting muscle aches:
Call your health care provider if:
Call 911 if:
Your health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your muscle pain, such as:
Tests that may be done include:
Physical therapy may be helpful.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.