Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
Muscle pain or myalgia is a major medical problem. Muscles are the soft tissue found in the body containing protein filaments of actin and myosin that slide past each other producing a contraction that changes the length and shape of the cell. There are over 600 muscles in your body.
Muscles may be cardiac, smooth, or skeletal. Cardiac and smooth muscles contract without conscious thought whereas skeletal muscles contract upon demand.
The cardiac muscle, also called myocardium, is only found in the heart. It exhibits rhythmic contractions and is not under voluntary control. Smooth muscles contract slowly and automatically and are found in internal organs and the digestive system. Skeletal muscles are attached to bones by tendons and produce movements of the body. Bound together by connective tissue, skeletal muscles communicate with nerves and blood vessels.
Sixty to 85% of the population has had muscular back pain during their lifetime. Pain evoked by myofascial (muscular irritation) trigger points has a prevalence of approximately 30%. More than 7% of women ages 70 to 80 suffer from the fibromyalgia syndrome, which is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and tenderness in localized areas.
Body aches are common and can occur for a variety of reasons. Aches are a common symptom of the flu. Muscle pain affecting a specific part of the body is often caused by overuse such as sore arms from lifting boxes. Or, it may be a minor injury like a bruised shoulder after a fall. When you ache all over your body, it’s likely caused by an infection or illness. Certain medications may also make you feel achy. About 30% of patients taking drugs such as statins experience muscle pain.
People with muscle pain in their arms, legs, or both, may not be getting enough blood, a problem called claudication. At first you may notice it only when you exercise, but in time you may feel it when you sit or walk. A condition that can cause this is called arteriosclerosis, which is when there’s blockage in the tubes that carry blood to your muscles.
There are many causes of muscle pain. Sometimes you can treat your aches with a little self-help such as resting, taking over-the counter pain relievers, or applying ice to sore areas. Other ways to help are gently stretching the muscle, avoiding high impact activities, and doing stress-relieving movements such as yoga, light exercise, and meditation.
Because muscle aches are not always harmless, it is important to see your physician if the pain persists or heightens. See your doctor if the pain is severe without a clear cause, occurs with a rash, is red or swelling, or if it occurs after a tick bite. Be cautious if you have pain that occurs after a medication change or if you are experiencing an elevated temperature. Muscle health matters and will enable you to maintain a healthy lifestyle so paying attention to your aches and pains is important.
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