What Is Myalgia?

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Myalgia is a general term for a symptom caused by a variety of disorders and medical conditions. This pain symptom can be acute with a sudden onset and short duration, or a chronic condition with intermittent or constant pain issues.

Identification

Myalgia is pain in a muscle or group of muscles. This pain may be accompanied by tenderness to the touch and stiffness of the muscle, tendons or ligaments surrounding the affected area. Myalgia can occur with or without myositis, or muscle inflammation. Common conditions associated with muscle pain are fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Causes

Myalgia can be triggered by wide range of problems. The most common reasons are overuse or overexertion and injury, such as sprains, strains, bruises and cuts. Injury and overexertion can cause microtears in the muscle and generate pain. Mental stress, poor sleep and prolonged exposure to damp or cold weather may also produce muscle pain. This pain condition can also be brought on by infections like upper respiratory infections or viral pneumonia. Autoimmune disorders such as lupus or multiple sclerosis, systemic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, and metabolic problems such as hyperthyroidism may also cause myalgia. Other things which may trigger muscle pain include substance abuse or withdrawal, receiving immunizations or taking certain types of medications, vitamin or electrolyte deficiencies, and insect bites.

Pain

Myalgia, like any form of pain, is subjective in nature and difficult to quantify. Since this condition is a symptom and not a diagnosis, any pain experienced in the muscle could be called myalgia. It is important, however, to identify the underlying problem or condition to rule out a more serious health threat.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. For overexertion and injuries, for example, initial rest, ice application for inflammation and a slow return to physical activity is recommended. Myalgia caused by an infection requires the use of appropriate medications to rid the body of the infection before the pain will subside. Conditions which cause chronic myalgia, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, require a holistic approach to pain management. The use of over-the-counter pain medications or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and the use of heat may ease pain when symptoms are exacerbated. Participation in a regular stretching and exercise routine may help reduce current pain and even prevent future pain issues. Alternative methods to lessen myalgia symptoms include things like physical therapy, massage therapy, aromatherapy and acupuncture.

Living With Myalgia

Though myalgia itself is not a life-threatening condition, it is important to understand and control its causes, so consult with your primary care physician. Addressing the reasons for the condition may reduce or even eliminate the pain. Taking measures to live an active, healthy lifestyle and reduce chronic stress issues are essential for managing myalgia.

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References

  • The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy; Robert Berkow, M.D.; 1987
  • Clinical Massage Therapy; Fiona Rattray & Linda Ludwig; 2000
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