What causes muscle pain?
Muscle pain, also known as myalgia, may affect any of the skeletal muscles in the body. Simplistically skeletal muscles are those responsible for voluntary movement. Myalgia may arise following injury, overexertion as may occur in the gym, infections of the soft tissues, or inflammatory conditions. Myalgia may affect one or more groups of muscles and conditions such as the flu often cause generalised muscle pain. Muscle pain due to injury or overuse is most commonly localized to one area and may arise from a sprain or tear. The pain may be mild or severe and debilitating. In some chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia muscle pain is the primary symptom. Muscle pain may be associated with redness (erythema), tenderness, swelling or fever.
What is myofascial syndrome?
Localised muscle pain with tenderness and spasm is often referred to as myofascial syndrome. The cause of myofascial pain syndrome is unknown. It may occur following injury, stress, depression or poor sleep patterns. It is thought that these risk factors may lead to a change in the ability of the brain to properly process pain perception (referred to as central pain processing).
How can muscle pain be treated?
If muscle pain occurs following an injury often it will settle with R.I.C.E Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation of the affected body part. A combination of simple analgesia such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen may help relieve the symptoms. If the pain persists despite R.I.C.E then an orthopaedic review involving a thorough examination will often help make the diagnosis. Sometimes an ultrasound scan or MRI scan may be required if a tear is suspected or if there is significant bruising or collection of congealed blood (haematoma). Often sprains and most small tears can be managed with the use of a splint or brace. Very rarely surgery is required.