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Could your muscle pain indicate a much deeper problem?

Could your muscle pain indicate a much deeper problem?

Prolonged muscle pain could indicate that something is seriously wrong with your muscles. Here are possible causes, treatment and prevention tips.

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Updated : June 13, 2015 1:50 PM IST

Muscle pain
Pain is a part and parcel of life a general notion people live with when it comes to muscle pain.

Given the fact that there are more than 600 muscles in your body, you are bound to experience muscle pain at some point in your life. Whether you are stuck in the front of computer for long hours or you are a fitness freak working out in the gym, there will be times when you feel physically distressed.

But you should not embrace pain or learn to live with it. Prolonged muscle pain could indicate that something is seriously wrong with your muscles. Moreover, muscle pain is also accompanied with a surprising range of diseases and disorders. Therefore, muscle pain due to an unexplained cause, especially when present along with other symptoms, should be immediately addressed by a doctor. (Read: Why you shouldn't ignore constant body aches)

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Muscle pain can manifest as any of the following:

  • Pain in a single muscle or group of muscles
  • It may be dull in the beginning and sharp if ignored for a long time. It may last for a few minutes or may be constant
  • Pain may be triggered suddenly in certain positions and can be pricking at a specific point
  • Muscle twitching and painful cramps
  • You may suffer sleeplessness or interrupted sleep
  • Sometimes, pain can cause numbness or a tingling and burning sensation (especially for the muscles in the back)
  • Pain increases with movement of that group of muscles or may occur even while you are rest
  • If the pain is due to an infection it will be coupled with fever and chills
  • Chronic muscle pain can also cause joint pain
  • You may feel weak or depressed because of constant pain in the background (Read: Lower back pain: Why you shouldn't ignore it)

What can cause myalgia?

Muscle pain or myalgia most frequently occurs due to overuse of muscles (while performing rigorous activities like dancing), muscle injury while exercising or physically demanding work. In such situations, pain involves a specific group of muscles and initiates during the activity or just after completing it.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of back pain.

But, muscle pain is not just restricted to physical activity. It can also indicate that you are suffering from an underlying condition.

Common causes of muscle pain involving the whole body include:

  • Common viral infections such as flu
  • Hormonal imbalances, especially the reproductive hormones
  • Deficiency of vitamin D or B12

Muscle pain is also associated with:

  • Malaria
  • Dengue
  • Haemorrhagic fever
  • Bacterial infection Lyme disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Muscle abscess (infection in the middle-lower back region)
  • Polio
  • Roundworm infection
  • Autoimmune conditions such as lupus or multiple sclerosis

Use of certain drugs is also known to cause myalgia. These drugs include blood pressure lowering medicines such as ACE inhibitors, cholesterol lowering medicines such as statins. Cocaine addiction also causes muscle pain.

When to seek medical help?

Contact a physiotherapist or doctor if:

  • The pain persists for more than 3 days
  • The pain is severe
  • You show any signs of infection
  • Pain is associated with swelling or redness around the muscle
  • Pain is associated with a surrounding rash
  • You have changed your dose of medication for hypertension or cholesterol that's causing pain

What are the complications of muscle pain?

Often, muscle pain due to other causes such as infection or use of drugs use can lead to complications such as:

  • Water retention
  • High fever
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty in swallowing
  • Inability to move any part of the body
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Stiffness of muscles

Treatment for muscle pain

Hot and cold compress: Muscle tear or over-stretched muscles are treated by applying cold compress in the aching area for about 15-20 minutes or hot compress for 10 minutes. This reduces inflammation and swelling. Hot and cold water bath can also be used to relieve pain by improving blood circulation to that area.

Diet: Muscle paincauseddue to an injury needs repair of the muscle tissue. Therefore, you need to have a proper diet which is rich is carbohydrates and especially proteins. This will help you to rebuild your tissues and heal the injury faster.

Exercises: Muscle pain should not stop you completely from exercising. Perform easy exercises and stretches for increasing circulation to the sore area. (Read: DOMS Get rid of post-workout muscle soreness with these expert tip)

Medication: You may take painkillers such as ibuprofen for temporary relief. But, avoid taking them every time your muscle aches. (Read: Ibuprofen why you shouldn't pop these pills indiscriminately).

Your doctor may prescribe any of the following medications:

  • Muscle relaxants such as diazepam, carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine and metaxalone
  • Narcotics such as morphine sulfate and oxycodone
  • Corticosteroids an anti-depressants can also be prescribed in chronic muscle pain

If your muscle pain is a symptom of other cause such as deficiency or viral infection, treat the cause first instead of treating the symptom.

Things you can do to minimise pain

  • Stop straining the affected muscles. Take good rest
  • Always do a quick warm up before exercising and perform cool down exercises after you are done
  • Stretch well before and after performing rigorous physical activities
  • Avoid sitting in the same posture for a long time. If you can't avoid, at least stretch your muscles intermittently
  • If your doctor prescribes you medication to reduce the effects of myalgia, complete the course of medicines. Do not stop taking them abruptly
  • Take a hot water or cold water treatment to temporarily relieve pain
  • Stay physically active to keep your muscles strong (Read: Top 5 bad postures that can affect your health)

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