What can cause muscle pain?

The human body consists of over 630 individual muscles, accounting for approximately 45% of body weight in adults. Muscle pain across this system can have a wide variety of causes, such as the localised deep muscle pain of a physical injury or the diffuse body ache of flu, and will often pass with time. The technical term for muscle pain is ‘myalgia’.

How does muscle pain
relate to muscle disease?

The muscle pain experienced by people with muscle diseases can be highly varied. Some muscle diseases cause pain as a direct result of the condition. For example, in the case of polymyositis inflammation can result in pain or tenderness in the affected areas. Alternatively, diseases that affect how muscle cells process energy can result in muscle cramps and pain associated with exercise. Muscle pain is often accompanied by a variety of other symptoms in proximal muscle disease.

Perhaps surprisingly, some muscle diseases that can result in loss of muscle mass are not necessarily directly associated with muscle pain, such as in the instance of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. However, people with muscular dystrophies may still experience pain due to changes in posture and loading on joints.

Pain can be present in a number of forms, including:

  • Generalised ache or pain
  • Localised tender points
  • Severe pain and muscle contraction after exercise (cramps)
  • Swelling
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sore muscles for no reason

It is important to remember that muscle pain has a wide range of causes and the chance of having a muscle disease is rare. Nonetheless, you should talk to your doctor if you are concerned with your symptoms.

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Symptom list

Investigate some of the symptoms of proximal muscle diseases and learn about the different ways they can present.

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