Myalgia translates to muscle pain. It is fair to say that most people experience one or two cases of the condition, at least, in a lifetime. Most often the pain is caused by straining or overuse of a muscle. It can occur in any muscle group, at any time of life. Myalgia that is not caused by muscle strain can be present in a large number of infectious diseases, anything from the common influenza to illnesses like Lyme disease. Some autoimmune diseases like lupus and fibromyalgia can cause significant muscle pain.
The muscle pain may be mild, or it can be severe if one has damaged a muscle. When pain that does not seem related to an illness is present for more than three days, one should see a physician. This is particularly important if one notices redness or swelling around the painful area, or if one has recently come into contact with a tick. If one has received a tick bite, it is very important to have the tick tested to rule out Lyme Disease. This can cause progressive damage to the body, but at onset can be easily treated with antibiotics. As well, any myalgia accompanied by fever for more than two days warrants consulting a physician.
Muscle pain that involves extreme soreness and inhibition of movement in the neck, accompanied by fever, can be very serious. If one cannot touch the chin to the chest, this may indicate pain caused by meningitis. This condition needs immediate medical attention. Parents who have children complaining of neck pain and fever, should direct their children to try the chin to chest stretch before calling the doctor, but even if the child can do this, a pediatrician should still be contacted.
Myalgia from overuse of a muscle is usually treated with alternating hot and cold packs on the muscle affected. Massage may also be of benefit. Treatment may also include taking ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. Ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are preferred because they may reduce swelling. However, muscle pain is the body’s way of communicating that rest of the muscle is needed. If the medication completely resolves pain it is possible to experience yet more pain by continuing to use the affected muscle or muscles.
Regular gentle exercise can be helpful to those who suffer from myalgia due to inactive lifestyles. As well, stretching before strenuous exercise can help reduce the risk of muscle pain. It is normal when beginning an exercise regimen to feel some pain after exercising. Muscles that have not been used frequently will be sore at first. If the pain is extreme, this may mean injury to a muscle.
Those who have myalgia as a result of autoimmune diseases may find some reduction in pain with gentle stretching exercises. Many with lupus and fibromyalgia find that especially Hatha yoga, also called gentle yoga, can help reduce muscle pain. For those who have movement difficulties, another helpful exercise regime is chair yoga, which eliminates standing poses.