What is muscle aches?

Muscle Aches
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Muscle aches: Overview

Muscle aches have many possible causes. Some common ones are overuse, tension, and injuries such as a strained muscle. An infection such as the flu can cause muscle aches. Or the aches may be caused by some medicines, such as antipsychotics. Muscle aches may also be a symptom of a disease like lupus or fibromyalgia. Myalgia is the medical term for muscle aches.

The doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions to try to find what is causing your pain. You may also have tests such as blood tests or imaging tests like X-rays. These can help find or rule out serious problems.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

How can you care for muscle aches?

  • Rest the area that hurts. You may need to stop or reduce the activity that causes your symptoms. Then you can return to it slowly.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • After 2 or 3 days, you can try applying heat to the area that hurts. Apply heat for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. You might also try switching between ice and heat.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Muscle aches: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain gets worse.
  • You have new symptoms, such as a fever, swelling, or a rash.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.