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Muscle pain

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Apr 27, 2023.

Definition

Almost everyone has sore, aching muscles now and then. Muscle pain can involve a small area or your whole body. The pain may range from mild to severe and limit movement. Muscle pain may begin suddenly or worsen over time. It also may be worse after activity or at certain times of the day. You may feel pain, soreness, cramping, aching, stiffness or burning.

Most muscle aches and pains go away on their own within a short time. Sometimes muscle pain can linger for months. Muscle pain can be felt almost anywhere in your body, including your neck, back, legs, arms and even your hands.

Causes

The most common causes of muscle pain are tension, stress, overuse and minor injuries. This type of pain is usually limited to just a few muscles or a small part of your body.

Muscle pain that is felt throughout your whole body is most often caused by an infection, such as the flu. Other causes include more-serious conditions, such as some diseases or health conditions that affect the muscles. Muscle pain also may be a side effect of certain medicines.

Common causes of muscle pain include:

When to see a doctor

Muscle pain from minor injuries, mild illness, stress or exercise is usually helped with care at home. Muscle pain from severe injuries or health conditions is often serious and requires medical care.

Get medical care right away or go to the emergency room if you have muscle pain with:

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have:

Self-care

Muscle pain that occurs during an activity usually signals a "pulled" or strained muscle. These types of injuries usually respond well to R.I.C.E. therapy:

Try pain relievers you can buy without a prescription. Products you put on your skin, such as creams, patches and gels, may help. Some examples are products that include menthol, lidocaine or diclofenac sodium (Voltaren Arthritis Pain). You also can try oral pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).

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