Myalgia and its causes

Medically Reviewed by:  Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 

Introduction

Myalgia, or the muscle pain you experience, can have various reasons. It can be a forerunner of many diseases. Anyone of different ages and genders can get muscle pain. The nature of pain can be a steady, deep ache, random sharp pain, burning, or a stiffness sensation. Some can have pain in a localized area, but others may experience pain all over the body. The pain may vary from person to person according to what may have caused it. The pain can be due to various factors, such as injuries, infections, and diseases. Management and treatment of the pain have to be done after a thorough understanding of the reasons behind it. In this article, we will see in detail the reason, symptoms, and treatment for myalgia.

Myalgia

What is myalgia?

Myalgia, also called muscle pain or muscle ache, is a condition where pain occurs in the muscles, ligaments (tissues that help hold bones in place), tendons (the cord that connects muscles to bones), and fascia (the tissue that surrounds and holds every organ). The pain can be acute or chronic, localized or generalized, episodic or constant.

    1. Acute myalgia is a type that is short-term (less than a month) and easily manageable, mostly due to Injury or overuse of muscle tissue. This type of muscle pain is localized and affects just a few muscles and a small area of the body. Chronic myalgia is a long-term (more than 3 months) pain often associated with any muscle or bone condition.
    2. Localized myalgia involves one or a few muscle groups, and generalized myalgia involves more than four areas.
    3. In the Episodic form, the pain is related to muscle activity, and in the constant type, pain is continuous and not associated with muscle activities.

What are the symptoms of Myalgia?

If you have myalgia, you may experience the following:

Myalgia can be seen in association with other symptoms, such as:

What Causes myalgia?

Some of the most common reasons for muscle pain can be due to 

In each condition, the treatment of choice will be different. Now let’s dive into the details of each situation.

1. Infections causing myalgia

Myalgiais considered one of the most common symptoms associated with infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites and usually resolves with illness. When you get infected, the immune system starts reacting by sending white blood cells to fight the infection. This body’s response to the fight causes inflammation, leading to muscle aches, fever, weakness, and so on. Some common factors leading to myalgia are the following:

2.Injuries causing myalgia

Some of the myalgia you get can be due to overstress and strains on the muscle tissues. The tension, overuse, or muscle injury from the exercise or hard physical work can be the reason. This type of pain starts 6 to 12 hours after strenuous activity and can last up to 48 hours. In this case, myalgia occurs when the muscle heals after overuse, injury, or tension to get stronger. Trapezius (trapezius muscles present in the shoulder, commonly called the traps) myalgia is usually caused by injury, overuse, stress, or poor posture. Some injuries include:

3. Medications causing myalgia

Some medications cause myalgia in patients as a side effect, even at therapeutic doses. Some medicines cause inflammation around the muscle cells, also called myositis, or activate the muscle pain receptors. Commonly used medications that can cause muscle pain are the following:

4. Neuromuscular disorders causing myalgia

Neuromuscular disorders occur due to trouble in the nerves that lead to muscle functions. This disorder projects symptoms such as muscle weakness, spasms, twitching, or myalgia.

5. Neuromuscular disorders causing myalgia

An autoimmune disease occurs when our body’s immune system attacks itself, considering it a foreign agent. This can include the destruction of one’s healthy muscle tissue. An attack on muscle tissue will result in inflammation and symptoms like swelling, myalgia, and weakness. Some of such conditions include:

6. A metabolic disorder causing myalgia

The muscles in the body require energy to function properly. This energy is drawn from the food we eat, which gets digested in the intestines, releasing energy. This energy is taken up by different cells in the body, including muscles. When the food metabolism is disrupted by any disorder, lack of energy leads to weakness, myalgia, and exercise intolerance. Some conditions include:

7. Others

Myalgia can be seen as a symptom of some other conditions, such as:

How do I diagnose myalgia?

Medical history is the first and foremost one; this will include the entire history of your injuries, illnesses, and medications. Then comes the physical examination, which evaluates the area of pain, strength, and stiffness of the muscles. Your healthcare provider also checks your gait, or manner of walking, and your posture. If you are experiencing severe pain and don’t know the reason for the pain, your physician will ask you to do the following tests to identify the cause and for treatment:

What is the treatment for myalgia?

Usually, acute myalgia will respond well to home remedies. Depending on the cause, the following measures will help you with pain relief:

In cases of chronic myalgia, home remedies alone will not be sufficient; methods such as physical therapy may be needed. Physical therapy is the most common treatment option for chronic myalgia and can be used to increase the flexibility of sore muscles and also strengthen the surrounding tissues. 

Don’t ignore the signs that your body is projecting. Most of the time, myalgia occurs as a symptom of a particular disease or due to overuse and muscle tension. Proper posture and stress management can also minimize the injury or harm that occurs to the muscles. If it is due to an autoimmune disease, infection, or medication, appropriate treatment for the condition should be provided. Painkillers and muscle relaxants prescribed by your physician will surely help you alleviate your pain.