An Overview of Myalgia

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Myalgia is the medical term for muscle pain. Muscle pain is a symptom of many diseases and conditions. Myalgia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). If you or a loved one is experiencing myalgia, it is useful to learn more about what it is, its symptoms, potential causes, when to see a healthcare provider, and treatment options.

Back Pain. Sport injury.
VioletaStoimenova / Getty Images

Myalgia Symptoms

Muscle pain is the main symptom of myalgia. The pain feels like a pulled muscle and it can hurt with both rest and movement. Muscles can also be tender and swollen.

Additional symptoms of myalgia may include:

  • Deep muscle pain in the local area or widespread pain
  • Dull or sharp aching pain
  • Mild or severe pain that may last minutes or be constant
  • Fever and chills if there is an infection
  • Joint pain associated with muscle pain
  • Fatigue that interferes with your normal activity
  • Feeling depressed if the pain is constant

Causes

Anyone can develop myalgia after exertion. That type is usually short-lived and can be managed very easily.

People who have chronic myalgia conditions usually have persistent or recurrent and widespread muscle pain. 

The most common causes of myalgia are muscle overuse, injury, and strain. These causes usually result in acute myalgia. 

Myalgia can be a side effect of some medications. For example, statins (cholesterol medicines) are known for causing muscle pain. Glucocorticoids, immunologic drugs, and antimicrobials cause myopathies—diseases that affect muscle tissue. Suddenly stopping high doses of these medications or opioids, benzodiazepines, caffeine, or alcohol may trigger myalgia.

Chronic myalgia can be caused by a number of diseases or in response to certain triggers such as trauma or vaccinations.

Acute myalgia is the main symptom of many conditions, including:

  • Injury or overuse: This type of muscle pain is localized and affects just a few muscles and a small area of the body.
  • Influenza: Muscle soreness is common with many infections, especially the flu.
  • Lyme disease: Early on, this tick-borne disease presents with flu-like symptoms, including muscle pain.
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies: Several vitamin and mineral deficiencies contribute to muscle pain, including vitamin D and potassium deficiencies.

Chronic myalgia is often the main symptom of musculoskeletal conditions and autoimmune diseases including:

  • Fibromyalgia: This condition is characterized by widespread throbbing, shooting, and/or stabbing muscle pain.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): The same processes that cause inflammation in the joints can also cause inflammation and pain of the muscles.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): Muscle pain and stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms are common symptoms of MS.
  • Depression: Depression can lead to physical symptoms, including unexplained muscle aches and pains.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Myalgia can be a sign of a health issue that should be taken care of.

It is a good idea to see your healthcare provider if:

  • Pain does not go away after a few days of home treatment.
  • Muscle pain is severe and has no known cause.
  • You have a rash.
  • You have been bitten by a tick.
  • You have redness and swelling.
  • Your pain continues despite the use of over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • You have a fever.

While rare, myalgia can also be a sign of a medical emergency. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, along with aching muscles, you should seek out immediate medical attention:

  • Water retention or decreased urine output
  • Problems swallowing
  • Trouble breathing or catching your breath
  • Neck stiffness
  • Weak muscles
  • Paralysis (inability to move the affected area)

Diagnosis

Myalgia is a symptom, not a diagnosis. Diagnosis is directed towards finding an underlying condition that may have triggered the onset of muscle pain.

Getting to a diagnosis may include a number of steps.

  • Medical history is the initial step when a person reports muscle pain. The process involves a complete history of previous and current injuries and illnesses and medications currently being taken.
  • Physical examination evaluates the area of pain, muscle tone, strength, stiffness, and observation of gait (manner of walking) and posture.
  • Blood tests might show changes consistent with muscle damage, inflammation, or some underlying conditions.
  • Imaging, including X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, can be used to diagnose and rule out some causes of myalgia.

Condition-Specific Testing

Depending on the condition a healthcare provider suspects, they may perform additional diagnostic testing. For example, specific blood work is done to identify autoimmune diseases, including testing for certain antibodies and genes. X-rays can determine what type of arthritis may be causing muscle pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Nerve conduction studies can determine whether the nerves supplying the muscles are functioning normally, such as is the case with myositis, which causes inflammation and degeneration of muscle tissue.

Some muscle conditions, such as fibromyalgia, cannot easily be confirmed or ruled out with blood work or imaging. In this instance, your healthcare provider will rely on your symptoms and ruling out other conditions in making a diagnosis.

Treatment

Physical therapy is the most common treatment for chronic myalgia. It can increase flexibility in sore muscles and with strengthening the surrounding tissues.

The therapist can also help you to find ways to manage stress and focus on ergonomics on the job and at home. Ergonomics can improve your workspace and environment to minimize the risk of injury or harm.

In addition to physical therapy, your healthcare provider might prescribe medications to help manage your pain. For example, myalgia from overuse usually responds well to OTC pain relievers.

Fibromyalgia sometimes improves with prescription medicines, including anti-seizure drugs (such as Lyrica) and anti-depressants (Cymbalta), which modify the body’s chemical responses to pain. Additionally, pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes directly injected into a painful area to decrease pain.

Myalgia pain can also be managed by treating the underlying condition causing it, such as with autoimmune diseases. 

Autoimmune diseases cause excessive systemic (whole-body) inflammation. Inflammation is the biological response the body normally uses to protect itself from infection and foreign substances. It causes symptoms of swelling, warmth, redness, pain, and loss of function. Myalgia due to autoimmune disease is managed with treatment of the underlying disease.

Managing Myalgia

Most muscle aches and pains respond well to home remedies. Some things you can do to relieve acute muscle pain include:

  • Resting the achy area
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen)
  • Alternating between ice and heat to reduce swelling and relieve pain
  • Gently stretching muscles
  • Avoiding high impact activity until the pain goes away
  • Doing stress relief exercises, such as yoga and meditation, to relieve muscle tension

A Word From Verywell

For many people, myalgia is short-lived. However, it can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. If you are experiencing joint pain, fevers, fatigue, rashes, swelling, and/or tenderness, you should talk to your healthcare provider. Muscle pain can be managed and successfully treated. There is no reason to live with muscle pain, and it is possible to have a full life despite chronic muscle pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between arthralgia and myalgia?

    Arthralgia is joint stiffness, while myalgia is muscle pain. You can experience both symptoms together due to injury or a medication side effect. Check with your healthcare provider if your arthralgia and/or myalgia don't go away after a few days of home treatment.

  • What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

    Polymyalgia rheumatica is a disorder that causes muscle pain and stiffness in different areas of the body, particularly the neck, shoulders, and hips. The stiffness is typically worse after resting. It's usually treated with an oral corticosteroid, such as prednisone.

  • Why do statins cause myalgia?

    Myalgia due to statins may have multiple causes that interact with each other. Though the exact mechanism is not well understood, one study from 2019 found that statins cause calcium leaks from storage compartments in muscle cells. The leaks can cause damage to muscle cells, sometimes leading to muscle pain.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Light AR, Vierck CJ, Light KC. Myalgia and Fatigue: Translation from Mouse Sensory Neurons to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndromes. In: Kruger L, Light AR, editors. Translational Pain Research: From Mouse to Man. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2010. Chapter 11. 

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Myalgia.

  3. Holder K. Myalgias and Myopathies: Drug-Induced Myalgias and Myopathies. FP Essent. 2016;440:23-7.

  4. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Influenza. Updated July 13, 2017.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease. Updated September 3, 2019.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Muscle pain: Possible causes. Updated December 3, 2017.

  7. Paganoni S, Amato A. Electrodiagnostic evaluation of myopathiesPhys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2013;24(1):193–207. doi:10.1016/j.pmr.2012.08.017

  8. The Myositis Association. Exercise and physical therapy.

  9. Wright CL, Mist SD, Ross RL, Jones KD. Duloxetine for the treatment of fibromyalgiaExpert Rev Clin Immunol. 2010;6(5):745–756. doi:10.1586/eci.10.64

  10. Lotteau S, Ivarsson N, Yang Z, et al. A mechanism for statin-induced susceptibility to myopathyJACC: Basic to Translational Science. 2019;4(4):509-523. doi:10.1016/j.jacbts.2019.03.012