There is no shortage of muscles in the human body – somewhere between 600 and 800, depending on what your exact definition of a muscle is. And the experts can’t quite seem to agree on that.
But the primary functions of the muscles are clear: they are there to enable us to move, to maintain our posture, and to generate heat.
With so many muscles in the body, it comes as no surprise that they can become sore, and aching – sometimes mildly so, and sometimes absolutely excruciating. Muscle pain can develop just about anywhere in the body, and mostly goes away in a day or two, but sometimes can linger for months. Muscle pain can also involve ligaments, tendons and fascia (all are connective tissues in the human body).
Another name for muscle pain is ‘myalgia’. Most people know the cause of muscle pain in a specific part of their body, such as sore arms after carrying heavy boxes, or painful thigh muscles after a particularly heavy workout. Tension and overuse, as well as doing demanding work or heavy exercise can often be the cause of muscle pain. This kind of muscle pain is usually restricted to a specific part of your body.
Other causes of muscle pain
But injury and overuse are not the only causes of muscle pain, which can sometimes affect the whole body, and not just one area.
Other causes can include flu, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome (a condition where mental or physical exertion can cause extreme fatigue); claudication (too little blood flow to the blood vessels during exercise); dermatomyositis (an inflammatory disease causing muscle weakness and a skin rash); dystonia (a movement disorder causing muscles to contract); and fibromyalgia (a disorder causing widespread muscle pain), to name but a few.
Simple home treatment [resting, placing an ice pack on the muscle, using a compression bandage, elevating the affected part (such as the foot) can deal with many muscle injuries, but if the pain is severe, or the muscle weakness is extreme or you have a high fever and a stiff neck, or the muscle appears to affect your whole system, you need to see a doctor.
In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, MediHub cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.