Muscular Pain – What’s it all about?

Muscular pain (myalgia) is commonly caused by muscular injuries, sprains, and strains.

Muscular injuries can occur as a result of a fall or other trauma and during physical activity such as lifting heavy items, gardening, housework, decorating, exercise or participating in sport.

It is important to distinguish acute muscular pain of this nature from chronic pain associated with rheumatism, arthritis and postural problems.

Not warming up or cooling down before and after exercise is another source of muscle pain.

Muscular injury can also cause bruising. Always seek medical care if you suffer bruising without injury, and particularly if you are bruising more easily than usual.

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Sprains: This involves the overstretching of ligaments and/or the capsule (or envelope) surrounding the joint. There may be tearing too. The most common sprain involves the ankle ligament. If you experience severe pain, it is best to contact a doctor.

Strains: These are injuries where the muscle fibres are damaged by overstretching and tearing. Sometimes the fibres within the muscle sheath are torn, sometimes the muscle sheath itself ruptures and bleeding may occur.
Strains are most common in muscles that work two joints, like the hamstring. If you experience pain, it is best to contact a doctor.

Back pain

Affects 60—80 per cent of people at some stage in their lives, and back pain is often caused by strain of the muscles, ligaments and tendons connected to the vertebra. Sometimes it is the cushion between the vertebrae (inter vertebral disc) that is strained and pushes outwards pressing on to nearby nerves as in sciatica.

Lower back pain that is not too severe or debilitating may come on after gardening, awkward lifting or bending may be due to muscular strain causing lumbago. Stress and tension can also cause muscular pain too in the back.

Medical conditions:

Several medical conditions can cause muscular pain. These include:
• Fibromyalgia (Chronic Widespread Pain Affecting the Muscles)
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
• Infections such as Flu
• Autoimmune Conditions such as Lupus
• Thyroid problems

Contact your doctor if you think your muscular pain is linked to a medical condition.

Living with muscular pain

If muscular pain is mild to moderate, a topical pain-relieving product that also helps reduce inflammation may help to manage the pain.

However, the first priority in treating sprains and strains is to apply compression, cooling and elevation immediately.

The acronym – PRICE: P (protection), R (rest), I (ice/cooling), C (compression), E (elevation) is a useful aide-memoire for sprains and strains.

This combination should be maintained for at least 24 hours. After this first, acute phase is over, heat can be useful. But heat should not be applied immediately after an injury as it increases blood flow to the affected area (the opposite effect of what is needed at this stage).