Nearly everyone will experience the pain of sore, achy muscles at some point in their lives. Muscle pain, also known as myalgia, can range from hardly noticeable to debilitating.
In most cases, it will fade away in a few days. However, in some cases, it could linger on for several months.
You can develop muscle pain nearly anywhere in your body, including: hands, neck, legs, and back.
Causes of Muscle Pain
Most commonly, muscle pain is a result of stress, tension, overuse, and slight injuries. Usually, the pain is localized to a particular area, only affecting specific muscles or body parts.
On the other hand, systemic muscle pain will be felt throughout your entire body and is different.
Typically, systemic muscle pain is a result of an infection, illness, or even a medication side effect. Following is a list of possible causes of systemic muscle pain:
- Statins, which are used to lower cholesterol
- ACE Inhibitors, which are used to regulate blood pressure
- Muscle abscess
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Lyme Disease
- Polio or post-polio syndrome
Conditions and Diseases
- Imbalance of electrolytes
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treating Muscle Pain
If the muscle pain is due to stress, strain, or overuse, you can typically treat it at home. A slight injury will usually respond favorably to R.I.C.E, or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
However, if your muscle pain is persistent and you suspect that it is something more than a minor injury or strain, you should consult your physician. Your priority is to get treatment for the underlying condition.
Never delay medical treatment if your muscle pain is accompanied by difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, dizziness, high fever, stiff neck, localized swelling/redness, tick bite, or muscle pain that started after starting a new medication.
Home Remedies for Muscle Pain
Following are some things you can do at home for that muscle pain that is a result of strain, stress, or overuse.
If you’re working out and you experience a muscle cramp- just stop! Don’t try to power through the pain.
The cramp is your body’s way of saying it doesn’t like moving that way- and if you continue through it, you could seriously injure yourself.
Stretch and Squeeze
When you’re experiencing a muscle cramp, stretch the muscle with one hand and with the other, gently squeeze the center of the muscle.
See if you can feel how it is contracted and then stretch it in the opposite direction.
For example, if the pain is in your calf, try to stand with your foot flat on the ground and lean forward without lifting your heel off the ground.
If you can’t stand, sit down on the ground with the affected leg extended. Then, reach forward and grab your toes, pulling the foot back towards your knee.
Walk it Off
Once the acute pain has passed, you shouldn’t immediately jump back into exercising. Instead, take a few minutes to walk and get the blood flowing back into your muscles.
If you know that you’ve overworked your muscles, take a cold bath or shower to reduce the trauma.
If you don’t think you can handle a cold bath/shower, then place ice packs on your muscles for 20-30 minutes at a time every hour for the first 24 to 72 hours.
The cold will help the muscle pain by constricting the blood vessels, which reduces the blood flow and therefore, inflammation.
Avoid Using Heat
Sure, that warm heating pad or hot water bottle may feel great, but it is actually the worst thing you can do for your sore muscles.
Heat dilates your blood vessels, which increases circulation and encourages swelling.
Overall, heat will actually increase the stiffness and soreness of your muscles, especially if you use it during the first 24 hours. If you must use heat, only use it for about 20 minutes or less every hour.
Or, consider contrast therapy- heat for four minutes and an ice pack for one. After 3-4 days, once the soreness and swelling have gone down, resume taking hot showers/baths to relax your muscles.
If you’re experiencing muscle pain, the last thing you want to do is move. However, it is the first thing you should do. Just make sure to take it slow, warm up with a 20 minute walk.
One of the best remedies for muscle pain is swimming. The cold water of the pool will reduce the inflammation and the buoyancy provided by the water helps to ease soreness and stretch out the muscles.
Get a Massage
When it’s cold weather, you can prevent your muscles from painful cramping by keeping them warm.
You should wear adequate clothing- layers offer the best insulation because air is trapped between the layers.
Some people find that they like the warmth and compression that is offered by running tights.
Warm Up Before a Workout
One way to prevent injuries to muscles during a workout is to warm up beforehand. Instead of doing simple stretches, go for a walk or bike ride to “prewarm” your muscles.
After this, do stretches according to the workout you’re going to be participating in.
Even if you’re going to be working in your garden or chopping wood, you should still warm up, as it will get your muscles ready and prevent injury and potential damage.
Know When to Stop
The best way to prevent injury and pain to your muscles is to know your personal limits. If you’re feeling stiff and sore the next day, you know you overdid it.
Instead of getting all your workout in on the weekends, aim to get regular exercise during the week.
Start off with short bursts of low intensity and over a period of weeks or even months, gradually increase the intensity and amount of time you work out.