Suffering from aching muscles? Been overdoing it in the gym? Muscle aches, (doctors use the fancy word : ‘myalgia’), are very common.
What caused my muscle-ache?
Working that out often depends on whether the aches are localised to a few muscles, or whether they can be felt throughout the body.
Some common causes of local muscle pain can include:
- overuse strains and sprains
- muscle injury
- tension and stress
Some common causes of muscle aches felt throughout the body can include:
- infections (flu, tickbite fever, malaria etc.)
- dermatomyositis, polymyositis
- side effects of medication (especially, statin medication to lower cholesterol)
- rheumatoid arthritis
- underactive thyroid gland
- blood circulation problems (claudication: where pain in the calf muscles is brought on by exercise and relieved by rest)
- electrolyte disturbances (low potassium, low magnesium, low calcium)
What can I do to make it better?
For local muscle aches consider the following:
- R.I.C.E. (R = rest, I = ice the area, C = apply a compression bandage, E = elevate the affected limb)
- over-the-counter anti-inflammatories/painkillers (paracetamol, ibuprofen)
- apply ice to a sprain for 1-3 days
- apply heat only after 3 days
- physiotherapy (to help stretch, tone and gradually re-introduce exercise)
- try yoga, get more sleep, look at ways to decrease stress
- avoid high-impact exercise and weight lifting
For more generalised muscle aches throughout the body, treatment will be more specific, depending on the cause.
When should I see the doctor?
Don’t leave a persistent pain without seeking a doctor’s advice…it could be something more serious! Rather see your doctor if any of the following is present:
- pain persisting for more than 3 days
- rash, and/or a bite
- redness and swelling
- a stiff neck with a fever
- muscle weakness
- shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain
- severe pain without an obvious cause – claudication (where pain in the calf muscles is brought on by exercise and relieved by rest)
- a recent change/new medication associated with muscle aches
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