What Are The Causes Of Muscle Pain?


Muscle Pain: General Overview, Causes Of Muscle Pain And Treatment

Muscle pain medically referred to as myalgia, often manifest as a sign of an ongoing medical condition, illness, infection, or even a mild injury. Muscle pain can be generalized, that is muscle pain all over body, and it can be localized to only certain parts of the body, for instance, muscle pain back of thigh from prolonged standing. All over the world, everyone must have experienced muscle pain at one time or the other, although based on different etiologies (1).

Muscle pain is not age specific, therefore, it can be seen in children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Most times, muscle pain and aches are not to be worried about and the doctor will only recommend rest or mild analgesics because the pain will resolve spontaneously.

However, in some instances, muscle pain may be a manifestation of certain diseases such as muscle pain behind knee which can be a symptom or a radiating pain from lumbar spondylosis, or osteoarthritis of the spine (2). There are various causes of muscle pain ranging from muscle soreness, strain, medication, and poor diet. Muscle pain causes a disruption in your daily activities both at home and work. This article discusses causes of muscle pain in different parts of the body and their treatment.

What Are The Possible Causes Of Muscle Pain?

The causes of muscle pain vary, muscle pain which can be localized or generalized has different causes responsible for each. This section will focus on discussing the general causes of muscle pain. These are:

  • – Muscle strain

Muscle sprain results mostly from injuries or muscle overuse, and it is the commonest cause of muscle pain. A muscle tissue can get strained after a stressful exercise or a sudden unexpected movement across a joint, this is commonly referred to as pulled muscle in layman’s terminology.

muscle pain back of thigh

Muscle strain is simply defined as pain resulting from an injury affecting the tendons. That is, tissue connecting muscles to bone, or injury affecting the muscles directly. This can either be minor or major. When it is a major muscle strain, it causes the muscle to tear apart. Muscle pain from overuse or strain can also be complicated by swelling or edema (3).

  • – Nutritional deficit

Muscle pain can also result from a poor diet. Insufficient nutrients in diet manifest in so many ways, and one of the clinical signs can be muscle pain and generalized body weakness. Vitamin D is one of the important nutrients the body needs to grow and function well, especially the musculoskeletal system.

Vitamin D is responsible for calcium absorption, so a deficiency of vitamin D in the body can also lead to a low level of calcium termed hypocalcemia, which in turn can affect the muscles, bones, and even internal organs. What causes muscle pain in the legs at times is traceable to vitamin D deficiency.

  • – Dehydration

Dehydration occurs due to inadequate fluids in the body, which can occur from inadequate water intake, vomiting, diarrhea, working under the sun, and lots more. Drinking an adequate volume of water is required to enable the body to function appropriately. Muscle pain from dehydration results when there are inadequate fluids in the body to nourish the muscular tissues.

It is important to be conscious of adequate fluid intake daily, and medical experts however recommend intake of six to eight glasses of water daily, and this should be the least for manual laborers that work under the sun (2).

  • – Inadequate flow of blood

People who frequently complain of muscle pain back of thigh, or muscle pain in the arms may be experiencing what is called intermittent claudication. This results from the low flow of blood to the distal parts of the body, from arteriosclerosis. Initially, it may be occurring on exertion but as time goes on, it can also occur at rest as the condition worsens and insufficient blood is reaching the muscles.

  • – Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a progressive chronic tiredness occurring for a long period, unexplained by any other cause. However, adequate rest makes it better over time.

Muscle pain all over body, muscle pain behind knee, and muscle pain back of thigh are all traceable to chronic fatigue syndrome. There is no definitive treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, it can however be treated symptomatically (4).

  • – Bad posture

Poor body posture is another cause of chronic muscle pain. This entails poor sleeping posture, poor standing posture, and poor sitting posture all contribute to muscle pain. Muscle pain from bad posture often is localized muscle pain.

muscle pain all over body

For instance, muscle pain right side and muscle pain left side of the body may be attributed to poor sleeping posture and a bad mattress. Muscle pain from bad posture is easily corrected by employing good posture techniques and good physiotherapy.

  • – Widespread fibromyalgia

When muscle pain becomes on and off and has been ongoing for a while, it may be a pointer to a chronic illness such as fibromyalgia. It is defined by its generalized muscle pain and its weakness. It is sometimes similar to pain felt in muscle strain. Widespread fibromyalgia can radiate pain to different parts of the body such as muscle pain under shoulder blade. Fibromyalgia may also be what causes muscle pain in legs (6).

  • – Inadequate sleep

Inadequate sleep, medically referred to as insomnia can cause muscle pain all over body. Adequate sleep and rest are required to nourish the body, recuperate, and be well-rested. Inadequate sleep makes one inactive and function during the day, it makes the body weak and unable to utilize the day. Sometimes, inadequate sleep may also be a pointer to an underlying medical condition (2).

  • – Medications

Muscle pain, especially muscle pain all over body can also be a side effect of drugs and therapies. Some drugs will result in myositis, which is inflammation of the body’s muscles as part of its side effect. Examples of such medications and therapies are:

  • – Chemotherapies
  • – Radiation therapy
  • – Antihypertensive drugs, such as ACE inhibitors (Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors)
  • – Statins (1).
  • – Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions also cause muscle pain in different parts of the body. Pain in an internal organ can also mimic muscle pain in the affected side of the body. Examples of such medical conditions are:

  1. a) Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects different systems of the body and is not limited to the musculoskeletal system alone. In lupus, the antibodies in the body meant to protect it against infectious agents begin to act against the normal body cells.

Lupus attacks the muscles and joints and cause pain in the muscles and the joints associated with it. For example, muscle pain elbow may be a clear clinical manifestation of lupus along with other pathognomonic signs (4).

  1. b) Urinary tract infections

Infections that affect the urinary system from the urethra to the kidneys are referred to as urinary tract infections or UTIs. This usually occurs when pathogenic microorganisms invade the organs of the urinary system.

Urinary tract infection is more commoner in women compared to male because of the short length of the urethra which is about 4cm. When UTIs occur, it leads to muscle pain in the flanks, which can manifest as muscle pain lower left back, or muscle pain lower right back.

Without adequate and early treatment, a lower urinary tract infection, the infection ascends to the kidney and if not treated early will result in a kidney disease which can be fatal. Aside from the flank pain, people with urinary tract infections also manifest frequent urination, painful urination, and at times, hematuria, that is, blood can be seen in the urine.

  1. c) Kidney disease

Kidney disease whether acute kidney disease, chronic kidney disease, polycystic kidney disease, or pyelonephritis all results in pain in the muscles which radiates to muscular pain in the affected flank side.

Some kidney diseases like kidney stones cause severe infection in the affected kidney side and upon touching, the patient is always very irritable, and the muscle aches too.

Muscle pain right side occurring from kidney stones is always very severe and can radiate to other parts of the body like the loin. Individuals who describe their pain as muscle pain lower left back or lower right back may be trying to describe flank pain and they should be given urgent medical attention for immediate treatment.

  1. d) Shingles

Shingles is another medical condition that results in muscle pains. Shingles result in painful blisters and rashes along the affected part of the body. Anyone that has been infected with chicken pox in the past is also at risk of shingles infection.

Shingles are also high in those who are immunosuppressed, the elderly, and non-vaccinated children. shingles usually affect just parts of the body, so muscle pain all over body may not occur in shingles, when it affects the back, it can result in muscle pain lower right back or muscle pain lower left back (5).

  1. e) Lungs cancer

Muscle pain under shoulder blade oftentimes is radiating pain from other parts of the body and is usually pain from the internal organ, the lungs. Aside from lung cancer, other pain or conditions can manifest as radiating pain presenting as muscle pain under shoulder blade, and examples of such are pericarditis and aortic dissection.

Aside from muscle pain, they have other presentations such as dizziness, difficulty in breathing, and chest pain. These clinical signs should not be ignored because they are maybe life-threatening (6).

  1. f) Depression

Depression is one of the commonest mental health disorders all over the world, and it is often associated with physical clinical manifestations such as joint pain and muscle pain. Muscle pain all over body and generalized body weakness is associated with depression.

Although, the pathophysiological explanation of the condition is psychologically related but mental health experts revealed that the muscle pain felt most often than not is a result of hormonal imbalances from serotonin and norepinephrine (3).

Symptoms Of Muscle Pain

There is no particular order of symptoms associated with muscle pain. However, some of the symptoms traceable to muscle pain are associated with the underlying cause or the muscle inflammatory symptoms. Individuals with muscle pain can notice some of the following symptoms:

  • – Fever, high body temperature
  • – Rashes
  • – Dizziness
  • – Redness
  • – Bite mark
  • – Swelling
  • – Difficulty in breathing in widespread fibromyalgia
  • – Loss of function.

Some of the above signs and symptoms will need urgent medical treatment because they are emergencies, such as difficulty in breathing, dyspnea, and fever. Depending on how severe the muscle pain is, the loss of function can vary from mild to a total inability to use the muscle group affected (2).

When To Call The Doctor For Muscle Pain

A lot of people wonder which doctor for muscle pain is available to be seen for muscle pain or fibromyalgia. However, on the contrary, any trained and licensed physician can treat muscle pain adequately.

There are therefore indications and pointers as to when to visit the doctor for treatment:

  • – Tick bite resulting in muscle pain
  • – Redness and swelling
  • – Muscle pain with rashes
  • – Muscle pain induced by a drug
  • – Difficulty breathing
  • – Dizziness
  • – Neck stiffness
  • – Hyperthermia, elevated body temperature
  • – Loss of function
  • – Vomiting
  • – Reduced urine flow rate (2).

Remedies For Systemic Muscle Pain

Irrespective of the cause of the muscle pain, the following practical steps will help to treat muscle pain and cause relief of symptoms.

  • – Rest

Rest is one of the practical steps to reduce pain and inflammation without the use of medication. Resting the affected body parts helps to relieve symptoms such as pain and swelling. Also, it is advisable to elevate distal parts of the body when they are affected such as muscle pain back of thigh or muscle pain behind knee. Rest the limb and elevate it.

  • – Hot and cold compress

Alternate ice and hot compress can be applied to the affected muscle parts to help relieve symptoms. Muscle pain heat or cold compress will help to improve blood flow and reduce the swelling of the affected body parts. You may want to apply ice to the aching muscles for the first 24 to 72 hours.

  • – Medications

Over-the-counter medications can be used for muscle pain relief and fever. For muscle pain Tylenol or Advil, drugs can be used to relieve pain in the affected muscle groups.

Also, drugs can be prescribed based on the underlying medical condition precipitating the muscle pain. For example, muscle pain back of thigh can be traceable to intermittent claudication and should be treated accordingly.

  • – Complementary therapies

Certain complementary therapies have proven to help relieve muscle pain, examples of such are massage, and acupuncture (1).

Prevention Of Muscle Pain

The following practical steps will help to prevent muscle pain

  • – Adequate hydration: Drinking enough water, especially on active days will help to nourish the muscles and help ease the pain in the muscles
  • – Exercise: Regularly exercising the body helps to strengthen the muscle and keep them healthy
  • – Stretching of muscles
  • – Eating healthy (7).


Muscle pain can be a common occurrence for individuals who engage in physical activity or have an underlying health condition. Muscle aches and pains can range from a dull, lingering soreness to sharp, intense pain that affects movement. Soft tissue injuries can lead to pain and inflammation, which may require blood tests to diagnose the extent of the issue. Muscle weakness can develop alongside sore muscles, which can make daily activities challenging.

Myalgia, or muscle discomfort, can be attributed to a variety of factors. It might occur from a localized injury, for instance, a sprain, or by a local infection, such as inflammatory muscle disease, or pyomyositis. It could also be the outcome of a systemic sickness or infection.

Muscle cramps are also a type of pain that can strike suddenly and cause discomfort. Understanding the type of pain a person is experiencing can help determine the best course of treatment. Rest and gentle stretching can often alleviate sore muscles, while more severe pain may require medication or physical therapy. Maintaining an active lifestyle can help prevent muscle pain, but it’s essential to listen to the body and avoid over-exertion to avoid injury.

A physician or a physical therapist can diagnose the disease by reviewing the signs, medical records, laboratory results, and imaging studies. The remedies for muscle pain varies depending on the reason and might range from lengthy rest, and medication to surgery (3).



  1. 1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17669-muscle-pain
  2. 2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322869#seeing-a-doctor
  3. 3. https://www.verywellhealth.com/muscle-pain-what-you-should-know-190093
  4. 4. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/ss/slideshow-body-aches
  5. 5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324592#causes
  6. 6. https://www.injurymap.com/articles/shoulder-blade-pain
  7. 7. https://www.healthline.com/health/muscle-aches#prevention