Muscle Pain (Myalgia)
In the medical world, aches and pains in the muscles are known as myalgia. There’s no single cause of muscle pain, there are various methods of treating it, and it may be long-term or short-lived. Keep reading to find out more about one of the ailments we treat at Sports Med London.
Symptoms Of Myalgia
To state the obvious, myalgia’s main symptom is muscle pain. In addition to pain that feels like a pulled muscle, you might also experience swelling and tenderness in the area. Often the area hurts during movement and during rest. If the pain is localized and you experience spasms and tenderness, the ailment may be referred to as myofascial syndrome.
Let’s take a closer look at myalgia symptoms:
You might experience an aching pain that’s either sharp or dull, widespread pain or deep pain in a specific area, and pain that lasts for a few minutes or is constant. You might experience joint pain associated with the pain in your muscle, fatigue, and depression caused by constant pain. If an infection is the cause of the myalgia, chills and fever may also be present.
Overuse, Caffeine, And Other Triggers
Whether you’re a child playing footie with friends in the park, or you’re an older person working out in your home gym, if you overuse, strain, or otherwise injure muscles, you can develop myalgia. The pain is usually limited to the area of injury or strain and does not last long. It’s easy to manage too.
In patients whose myalgia is caused by a chronic condition, the pain usually is widespread, and it recurs frequently, or it is persistent.
Overexertion of muscles may be the most common cause of myalgia, but it is not the only one. Suddenly stopping high doses of caffeine or alcohol can cause it, as can limiting or stopping large doses of opioids, and benzodiazepines.
Sometimes muscle pain is a symptom of a disease that affects the muscle tissue. Such diseases are known as myopathies, and they can be caused if you suddenly stop taking high doses of antimicrobials, glucocorticoids, or immunologic drugs.
When You Should See A Doctor
You can treat most cases of short-term muscle pain with simple painkillers such as paracetamol, simple anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, and R.I.C.E. or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. However, myalgia may be a sign of another health issue. Consider seeing a doctor if:
- Pain persists after the simple home treatment described above
- You were bitten by a tick
- You have a rash at the area of the pain
- The pain is severe, and you don’t know what caused it
- The area is swollen and red
- You have a fever
- Over-the-counter painkillers don’t relieve the pain
The good news is that, in most cases, myalgia can be treated without surgery. Find out more about it below.
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.