Muscle pain (myalgia) is a common complaint and is most frequently related to overuse or muscle injury from unaccustomed exercise or work. In these situations the cause of the muscle pain is fairly obvious. However, muscle pain can accompany many other conditions such as infectious disease, autoimmune disease, parasitosis and other problems. Muscle pain may accompany other symptoms such as joint pain (arthralgia), fever, or general ill feeling (malaise).
Muscle injury may result from exercise or overuse. It takes about 48 hours for a muscle to heal from minor overuse. Any time that the muscles are sore following exercise, it indicates some extent of muscle damage.
Some of the most common causes are:
For muscle pain, both rest and exercise are important. Muscle aches from overuse and trauma often respond well to cold and/or warm compresses, massage, and temporary decreased use or rest. Heat, warm baths, massage, and gentle stretching exercises after a rest period should be used as frequently as possible. Regular exercise (slowly increased from very gentle to more vigorous) may help restore the proper muscle tone (walking, cycling, and swimming are recommended).
Muscular aches associated with specific diseases are best controlled by treating the primary illness according to instructions given by your health care provider.
See a doctor if the muscle pain persists beyond 3 days or there is severe, unexplained muscle pain especially if accompanied by other unexplained symptoms.
Gradually muscle pain is experienced in the large muscles, such as the thighs, back and shoulders. Pain in the lower back, buttocks or thighs is common, and is often the earliest symptom. Deep, aching muscle pain is common.
Muscle pain can be due to food allergies. Such pains will disappear after elimination of the offending foods from the diet.
Muscle pains are a common symptom of SLE. Less common is actual muscle inflammation which occurs occasionally during the course of SLE.
One third of patients with disseminated coccidioidomycosis have musculoskeletal involvement.
To test the effects of vitamin C in preventing muscle soreness, researchers at Western States Chiropractic College gave 3gm of vitamin C to students beginning 3 days before exposing them to the stress of exercise. The vitamin C group developed significantly less muscle soreness than did the control group. [Pain 1992;50: pp.317-21]
Yoga is believed to reduce pain by helping the brain's pain center regulate the gate-controlling mechanism located in the spinal cord and the secretion of natural painkillers in the body. Breathing exercises used in yoga can also reduce pain. Because muscles tend to relax when you exhale, lengthening the time of exhalation can help produce relaxation and reduce tension. Awareness of breathing helps to achieve calmer, slower respiration and aid in relaxation and pain management. Part of the effectiveness of yoga in reducing pain is due to its focus on self-awareness. This self-awareness can have a protective effect and allow for early preventive action.
Three months of supplementation with vitamin E at 1000 IU per day prevented muscle soreness after a 45-minute downhill run in young men (mean age 24 years), but not older men (mean age 71 years), in a placebo-controlled study of 32 men.
[Experimental Biology, April 20-24, 2002, New Orleans, LA, USA; abstract]
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