The human body has more than 600 muscles that perform different functions, some that you can control, such as your skeletal muscles, and others, such as your cardiac muscles, which function autonomously. Muscle soreness or pain, which is called myalgia, ranges from mild to extreme and happens to most people occasionally. Myalgia can occur in any part of the body and last for days or months. However, muscle soreness that is not related to physical exertion or exercise may have an external cause or it may be a symptom of a medical condition.
Localized or Systemic
Most muscle soreness is localized, occurring in one muscle, a few muscles or in specific parts of the body. Localized muscle soreness is most often caused by stress, tension, injuries or overuse, according to the Mayo Clinic. Systemic muscle soreness, which is more widespread and may occur throughout the body, usually results from an infection, illness or medication.
Common causes of systemic muscle soreness include medical conditions and diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, staph and viral infections, influenza, lupus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease. Claudication, which is a symptom of peripheral artery disease, limits blood flow to vessels in the arms and legs and causes increasing muscle pain. Statins, which are medications prescribed to treat high cholesterol, can cause serious muscle problems, including soreness.
Some patients have fewer side effects, including muscle soreness, after switching to different statins. Muscle soreness associated with conditions such as influenza should resolve after the illness runs it course. However, treatment of muscle soreness caused by chronic conditions might require treatment of the underlying condition or symptom. Treatment of peripheral artery disease can improve the blood flow to vessels in the arms and legs, decrease claudication and relieve the muscle soreness. Patients with fibromyalgia, which causes systemic musculoskeletal pain, may take pain relievers and antidepressants to relieve muscle pain.
Systemic muscle pain and soreness usually result from serious diseases or medical conditions and require the attention of a doctor. You should contact your doctor to schedule an appointment if your muscle soreness lasts more than a week, if the soreness is connected to poor circulation in your legs, or if you notice signs of an infection such as swelling or redness around the affected muscle. You might need to see your doctor immediately if you notice a rash or tick bite or if your muscle soreness begins after you start taking a medication. Emergency medical care is required if, in combination with muscle soreness, you experience dizziness, stiff neck, high fever, breathing problems or extreme muscle weakness.
Tips and Warnings
Your doctor can diagnose the cause of your muscle soreness and prescribe a treatment. Your doctor might recommend medications or treatments to alleviate the muscle pain or soreness.