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Common causes of muscle pain and how you can address it

Learn about: Common causes | Related health conditions | Muscle pain relief | Common questions


Muscle pain is one of the most common ailments and is often related to overuse, tension, or injury. Many people who experience constant muscle pain can often identify how it was triggered; however, muscle pain can also indicate the presence of underlying medical conditions such as fibromyalgia or the flu.


Here are 2 Everlywell at-home tests related to muscle pain that may be a helpful place to start.

Vitamin D Test: This at-home test can be used to ensure you have adequate levels of vitamin D.

Thyroid Test: Easily measure your levels for the 3 main thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, and T4) plus thyroid antibodies with this comprehensive test—all from the comfort of your own home.


Common causes of muscle pain

Injury, trauma, overuse, tension, and stress are the most common causes of muscle pain [1]. Overuse injury from performing the same activity repeatedly can lead to muscle pain—for instance, weightlifting and swimming can lead to trapezius muscle pain. People who work on the computer or sit for long periods of time can develop rhomboid muscle pain or tension, given the rhomboid muscle is located in the upper back.

Sprain and strains from trauma and injury are other factors that can lead to muscle pain, as well as skipping warmups and cooldowns, and using improper form when doing certain exercises and movements. It’s normal to have sore muscles following an intense workout, but severe muscle pain that doesn’t go away may indicate you’re putting unnecessary strain on certain muscles. Practicing improper form or performing movements far beyond your current fitness level are common causes of exercise-related muscle pain.

All-over muscle pain or constant muscle pain that doesn’t resolve on its own may indicate that an underlying health condition is the root cause behind your pain. Chronic muscle pain may also be caused by the use of certain drugs and medications.

Here are a few of the common health conditions related to muscle pain.

Nutritional deficiencies

Low levels of vitamin D, an important nutrient, have been linked with muscle pain [2]. Other symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include fatigue, muscle twitches, and depression [3]. To check your vitamin D level from home, take the Everlywell Vitamin D Test.

Thyroid conditions

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are common thyroid problems that can cause muscle pain and additional symptoms including muscle weakness, mental cloudiness, and fluctuations in weight. When left untreated, thyroid problems can lead to cognitive decline, heart disease, and other hormone-related problems, such as irregular menstrual periods and infertility. If you think you may have a thyroid problem, an at-home thyroid test allows you to measure levels of thyroid hormones and TPO antibodies.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes all-over body pain and pain sensitivity. The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, although this condition is thought to be caused by trauma or physical stress, repetitive injuries, and viral infections. Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include deep muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, depression, and sleep problems [4].

Viral infections

Polio and the flu are common viral infections that can cause all-over muscle pain. Polio cases in the U.S. are rare thanks to widespread vaccination, though flu affects approximately 8% of the U.S. population every year [5]. Common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Myofascial pain syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic condition caused by a stimulus acting on trigger points in the muscle, resulting in pain. Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms and stiffness, fatigue, and sleep problems are common symptoms associated with myofascial pain syndrome. This condition can be effectively treated using physical therapy and exercise, though medications such as pain relievers and sedatives may also help reduce symptoms.

Muscle pain relief

You can treat muscle pain at home with rest and relaxation, gentle stretching of the affected muscles, or by applying ice to sore muscles. 

If these treatments fail to provide adequate pain relief, and you're wondering what to take for muscle pain, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen may help reduce symptoms. It's also a good idea to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to receive a proper diagnosis and muscle pain treatment.

Here’s how to relieve muscle pain related to exercise, tension, or physical activity, and how to reduce your risk for future muscle pain:

  • Perform dynamic stretching or warm-ups before workouts, and save static stretching for after workouts as part of your cooldown routine.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body and muscles properly hydrated.
  • Exercise regularly to build and strengthen muscles and joints.
  • Take frequent breaks to stretch or walk around if you work at a desk or in an environment that puts you at risk for muscle strain and tension.

Common questions

Does arthritis cause muscle pain?

Joint pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms of arthritis, though some people with this chronic condition may also experience muscle pain and a decreased range of motion.


Can inflammation cause muscle pain?

Inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases can cause muscle pain, such as arthritis, lupus, dermatomyositis, and polymyositis. Treating the underlying medical condition can often help relieve muscle pain.


Can dehydration cause muscle pain?

Dehydration can often lead to muscle fatigue and muscle cramps, which may be interpreted as muscle pain. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can often help prevent dehydration-related muscle pain.


Will exercise help relieve muscle pain?

Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which are hormones that help relieve and reduce the sensation of pain. If muscle soreness was caused by high-intensity exercise, temporarily avoid working the same muscle groups that are hurting and stick to low-intensity exercises such as walking or swimming.


Here are 2 Everlywell at-home tests related to muscle pain that may be a helpful place to start.

Vitamin D Test: This at-home test can be used to ensure you have adequate levels of vitamin D.

Thyroid Test: Easily measure your levels for the 3 main thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, and T4) plus thyroid antibodies with this comprehensive test—all from the comfort of your own home.