A Guide to Muscle Aches & Pains: Causes, Treatment & Prevention
Muscle aches and pains are extremely common, and most people will experience these at different times in their lives1. They can vary in severity and are caused by a number of different reasons. Whether you’re struggling with chronic muscle pains due to a medical condition or simply feeling acute aches caused by overuse or injury, you’re not alone.
The majority of the human body is covered by soft muscle tissue, this means that muscle aches and pains can appear anywhere, at any time. This can be a mild annoyance or debilitating depending on your own circumstances.
Here, we dive in a little deeper to help you understand the types of muscle pains there are, how you can treat this and what you can do to prevent any further discomfort in the future
Acute muscle aches caused by overuse or injury
The health benefits of exercise are far reaching and often discussed. However, if you exercise often and particularly rigorously, you’re prone to muscle aches and pains. Alternatively, if you try a new physical activity which works a particular muscle group, you may also experience some discomfort2 . This can be due to a number of reasons.
Weightlifters and body builders, for example, aim to increase muscle mass, meaning they regularly put stress on their muscles with the aim to grow them. After each session and on rest days, they’re likely to feel muscle aches and pains. This isn’t usually an issue as the aches felt are often a symptom of the level or work put in at the gym2. Sometimes, a muscle group can be worked too hard though, and tears occur. This can be very uncomfortable and needs adequate time to recover.
On the other hand, those who partake in other sports like running, football or tennis don’t usually aim to stress their muscles enough to feel aches. The aches they do feel are usually a side effect of the intensive workouts they’re doing. Muscle aches and pains can also be a sign that part of their body is injured and needs time to heal.
It’s important when undertaking any physical exercise that you give enough time to your warmup. This reduces your chances of injury1.
Muscle aches and pains due to overuse don’t just happen after sporting activities though. It’s common for those who work manual jobs, such as carpentry, to struggle with regular muscle aches and pains as a result of their day-to-day activities.
Muscle aches and pains caused by a sedentary lifestyle
Our bodies aren’t designed to sit for long periods of time3, though many of us work sedentary jobs which require us to sit at a desk for 8 hours every day. This can be detrimental to your body and cause muscle aches and pains.
When it comes to sitting at a desk all day, posture is your biggest ally or your greatest foe. The way you sit has a clear correlation with your chances of feeling muscle aches or pains3. This is why plenty of companies invest in ergonomic training for their staff to raise awareness of sitting positions which will lower the risk of injury.
For those who do spend their day behind a computer, here are some recommended tips to reduce the risk of discomfort4:
• Support your back
• Adjust your chair so your wrists and arms are level with the floor when using a keyboard
• Rest your feet flat on the floor
• Place your screen at eye level
• Have your keyboard straight in front of you
• Keep your mouse close and ideally use a mouse mat with wrist support
• Keep objects that you need regularly like a phone or notepad within easy reach
• Consider using a headset if you’re regularly on the phone
• Take regular breaks to stretch your legs
It isn’t just office work that causes muscle aches and pains. Generally living a sedentary lifestyle can be detrimental too. If you find yourself spending most of your day sitting, with minimal exercise between, it may be worth adopting some small habits to get your body more active and reduce the risk of muscle aches.
Here are a few examples of small habits that can be easily adopted and could make a difference to those struggling with a sedentary lifestyle5:
• Standing rather than sitting on public transport
• Walking more often
• Taking regular breaks from your desk at work
• Using a standing desk
• Take time to do daily chores around the house
• Using free time to be active or exercise
• Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
Muscle aches and pains caused by medical conditions
There are a number of health conditions that can cause muscle aches and pains, these are can be both chronic or come in bouts of acute pain. Some medical conditions which cause muscle pain include1:
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Myofascial pain syndrome
• Infections, such as the flu or bacterial infections
• Autoimmune disorders
• Medications like statins or ACE inhibitors
• Thyroid problems
• Hypokalaemia (Low potassium)
Treating muscle aches and pains
Often, you’ll be able to treat your muscle aches and pains at home, especially if this is caused by overuse or injury. With the right care, your body will repair over time. It’s important not to put any extra strain on the muscle group which is causing your distress.
Here are some simple ways to deal with muscle aches and pains:
• Resting the part of your body which is aching
• Using Tiger Balm Red on the affected area
• Over-the-counter pain relief like ibruprofen
• Gently stretch the muscles which are causing discomfort
When to speak to a healthcare professional
Muscle pain can sometimes be a symptom of a larger issue and shouldn’t always be considered as something that can be treated at home. Here are some signs to look out for, if any of the below apply, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional1:
• Ongoing pain which doesn’t subside quickly with home treatments
• Severe muscle pains which have a clear cause e.g. a tear or serious injury
• If a rash appears at the same time as your muscle pain
• If a tick bite appears at the same time as your muscle pain
• Redness or swelling in the affected area
• If pain occurs after a medication change
• If you have a temperature
Some muscle pain can be a symptom of a sever issue, if you notice any of the following, speak to a doctor immediately1:
• Sudden water retention or reduction in urine volume
• Difficulty swallowing
• Vomiting or fever
• Shortening of breath or difficulty breathing
• Neck stiffness
• Weak muscles
• Inability to move the affected area
How to prevent muscle aches and pains
If you’re experiencing muscle aches and pains caused by overuse or injury, there are a number of preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of this reoccurring.
• Stretch your muscles before any physical exercise and after your workout
• Ensure you warm up and cool down before and after exercise (at least 5 minutes each)
• Keep well hydrated when exercising
• Ensure you exercise regularly to keep your body active
• Take regular breaks to stretch if working a sedentary job
Struggling from muscle pain?
Try Tiger Balm Red
Tiger Balm Red is an effective herbal pain relief medicine indicated for the relief of sore muscles and pain. Simply rub the balm onto skin in the area that hurts for effective pain relief.
• Effective relief from muscle aches and pains
• Works where it hurts
• Provides a soothing warming sensation on muscles
• Unique formula with active herbal ingredients
• Soothing fragrance
Tiger Balm Red and Tiger Balm White are medicines. For temporary relief of muscular aches and pains. Always read the label. Tiger Balm neck and shoulder and muscle tension lotion are cosmetics. Only for external application. Suitable for those aged 12 years and older. Always read the label. Relaxation is caused by massage action using applicator. UK/2022-356