Muscle pain can have many different causes. Most commonly, muscle pain occurs shortly after an unaccustomed bout of exercise and is simply the result of excessive loading and tension on the muscles, which develop microscopic tears as a result. These tears heal within 72 hours, but pain and inflammation accompany the healing process. This is known as delayed onset of muscle soreness, or DOMS. The pain will usually disappear within three days of the exercise bout.
Muscle pain at a very specific point may also occur as a result of a sudden tear in the muscle. In this case, the pain will be localised to a very distinct point. In both these cases, the pain develops suddenly.
In other instances, muscle pain is the result of conditions that are longer-lasting or chronic, and which may require medical consultation and diagnosis. These conditions include:
- Infections – flu, malaria, polio, roundworm, Lyme disease
- Fibromyalgia – a condition in which there is body-wide pain and tender points in joints, muscles, and tendons
- Rhabdomyolysis – breakdown of muscle cells by the body
- Polymyalgia rheumatica – an auto-immune disease-causing muscle pain in the hip, shoulder or neck
- Lupus – an auto-immune disease with chronic, long term inflammation causing muscle pain
- Certain drugs can also cause muscle pain, including ACE inhibitors used for blood pressure treatments, statins used for cholesterol treatment, and cocaine.
Treatment is dependent on the cause of the muscle pain. For exercise related muscle pain, rest, ice, and limiting of movements causing pain are usually sufficient. In cases where muscle pain is part of a broader spectrum of symptoms, treatment will be prescribed for the identified condition. Treatment will often involve anti-inflammatory medication, as well as massage and physical therapy.