Muscle Pain Relief
What is muscle pain?
Muscle pain or strain is the result of tiny tears of the muscle fibers, usually from overstretching or excessive stress on the muscle. Strain of the muscle can cause swelling or tenderness of the muscle and may involve the outer covering of the muscle (muscle fascia), tendons, and ligaments.
Symptoms include aches, cramps, tenderness, loss of function, and sometimes atrophy. Most cases are localized aches or cramps, aggravated by movement of the muscle group. When muscle pain is associated with other medical conditions, the pain and swelling may migrate from one muscle group to another.
Muscle pain is referred to by different terms including a pulled or stiff muscle, muscle strain, myalgia, myodynia, myositis, myofascial pain syndrome, sore muscles, and muscle cramps.
What causes muscle pain?
Muscle strain is usually a result of sudden, heavy work such as lifting or athletic activity. The pain typically occurs in muscles that are poorly conditioned or not warmed up sufficiently prior to exertion.
In the case of minor muscle strain, the tenderness of the muscle is delayed 24-48 hours and usually resolved in a few days. For more severe muscle strains or pulls, caused by larger tears of the muscle groups, the result is sudden and severe cramping or burning of the injured muscle group. A torn muscle may bleed beneath the skin and cause bruising. More severe muscle injuries can also result in strained or torn tendons, ligaments, or even broken bones.
Muscle pain can also cause neck pain following whiplash injury or be associated with viral infections such as influenza or fevers. It may be associated with other medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or systemic lupus erythematosus. As these conditions are difficult to treat, muscle pain may become a chronic condition resulting in severe pain and loss of function.
How to treat muscle pain?
Most cases of muscle pain due to minor muscle strain resolve spontaneously. However, most common treatment recommendations include rest of the muscle, ice for the first 24 hours to relieve swelling, heat after 24 hours to improve blood flow, and anti-inflammatory medications. More several muscle injuries may require more aggressive treatment and rehabilitation with physical therapy.
Chronic muscle pains due to medical conditions are extremely challenging to treat. Severe muscle tears, involving tendons, ligaments, or bones, may require medical care including surgery. Because of the possibility of life threatening medical conditions, such as infection or cancer, muscle pain or swelling that does not resolve itself within a few week should be evaluated by a qualified medical physician.
The standard treatments for severe or chronic muscle pains are over-the-counter pain medication, prescription narcotic pain medication, rest, physical therapy, steroid injections, and nerve blocks. These treatments are typically not sufficient and, in the case of oral medication, have serious side effects and can be addictive. Extended use of over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen, can cause stomach ulcers and kidney, heart, or liver failure.
Sudden severe pain, especially in the chest, arms, or head, pain associated with fever, numbness or weakness, or pain in any area of the body that does not resolve after a couple of weeks, should always be evaluated by a physician to be certain that other medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke, infections, or even cancer is not the underlying cause of pain.
What are muscle pain treatment alternatives?
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