Symptoms A-Z

Muscle Aches All Over Symptoms, Causes & Statistics

Understand your muscle aches all over symptoms, including 4 causes and common questions.

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Muscle Aches All Over Symptoms

As with all other types of pain, muscle aches do have a purpose. In this case, the pain and discomfort serve to keep you from forcing muscles to work when there may be damage from overuse, illness, or medication.

"Muscles aches all over" is also called systemic muscle pain, myalgia, myositis, or myopathy.

Common characteristics of muscle aches all over

Muscle pain, stiffness, and weakness can be felt throughout the body, especially in the back, arms, and legs [1].

Common accompanying symptoms of muscle aches all over

The main presentation of muscle pain can also be accompanied by other related symptoms, such as:

Who is most often affected

People who are most likely to experience muscle aches all over include:

  • Women more than men: Especially over the age of about 40
  • Anyone taking statin drugs for cholesterol
  • Anyone ill with the flu

Timing of pain

Depending on the cause, your muscle aches may occur at different times or become aggravated by certain habits.

  • Sudden-onset: Muscle pain occurs very quickly due to influenza or meningitis, within just a few hours.
  • At night: Chronic pain of any kind is often worse at night.
  • In the morning: Anyone with autoimmune disease may feel worse in the morning.

Are muscle aches all over serious?

Muscle aches all over can vary in severity, depending on the cause.

  • Not serious: All-over muscle aches following a vaccination, during a cold, or while trying to quit caffeine are not considered serious.
  • Moderately serious: If you suspect a tick bite or influenza, see your medical provider so that proper care can begin right away.
  • Serious: If you are experiencing dark urine or have a very stiff neck along with muscle aches, this can be very serious and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Muscle Aches All Over Causes

Many conditions can cause the symptom of all-over muscle aches. We've listed several different causes here, in approximate order from most to least common.

Infectious diseases

Various infectious diseases that can cause muscle aches all over include:

  • Viral illness: Such as influenza [2]
  • Bacterial illness: Such as Lyme disease
  • Protozoal illness: Such as malaria

Drugs and medications

Various drugs and medications can cause muscle aches all over.

  • Medication: This includesstatin drugs, used to lower cholesterol;antiviral drugs, used as therapy for HIV and other viral illnesses;antimalarial drugs, used to treat certain autoimmune illnesses;and corticosteroid drugs, used for many autoimmune illnesses.
  • Vaccinations: These include those for influenza, pneumonia, shingles, and rabies.
  • Illicit and recreational drugs: Alcohol can cause muscle aches all over, especially during the day that follows a night of drinking.Cocaine can also cause widespread muscle aches because of the tremendous stress it places on the entire system.
  • Withdrawal: Suddenly stopping the use of some drugs can cause headaches, muscle aches, and joint pain. Drugs that can cause withdrawal includecorticosteroids, opioids, certain tranquilizers, and anti-anxiety medications, caffeine, and alcohol.

Autoimmune or Inflammatory illnesses

Some autoimmune or inflammatory illnesses can cause muscle aches, including:

  • Fibromyalgia [3]
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Hypothyroidism

Emotional and mental disorders

Certain emotional and mental disorders can cause muscle aches all over, including:

  • Constant tension: This is the inability to relax, and when combined with poor sleep, it eventually strains the muscles.
  • Anxiety and depression: These can magnify any sort of pain and make it seem worse, including muscle pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia.

Diet and nutrition

Improper diet and nutrition can cause muscle aches all over, including:

  • Electrolyte imbalance: This is commonly a calcium or potassium deficiency.
  • Vitamin D deficiency

Rare and unusual causes

Some rare and unusual causes of muscle aches all over that are also medical emergencies include the following:

We've listed some specific conditions that can cause muscle aches all over, along with how to identify each of them.

4 Possible Muscle Aches All Over Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced muscle aches all over. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a set of chronic symptoms that include ongoing fatigue, diffuse tenderness to touch, musculoskeletal pain, and usually some degree of depression.

The cause is not known. When fibromyalgia appears, it is usually after a stressful physical or emotional event such as an automobile accident or a divorce. It may include a genetic component where the person experiences normal sensation as pain.

Almost 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers are women. Anyone with rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, may be more prone to fibromyalgia.

Poor sleep is often a symptom, along with foggy thinking, headaches, painful menstrual periods, and increased sensitivity to heat, cold, bright lights, and loud noises.

There is no standard test for fibromyalgia. The diagnosis is usually made when the above symptoms go on for three months or more with no apparent cause.

Fibromyalgia does not go away on its own but does not get worse, either.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache

Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia: arthralgias or myalgias

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome most commonly resulting from muscle injury following extreme exertion such as endurance exercise or weight lifting or following a severe accident. Sometimes rhabdomyolysis may result from medications - most commonly medications to treat elevated cholesterol such as statins. Severity can range from mild to life threatening kidney disease from muscle enzymes entering the circulation.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, being severely ill, change in urine color

Urgency: Emergency medical service

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Dehydration

Dehydration means the body does not have enough water to carry out its normal processes.

Most susceptible to serious dehydration are young children with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. In adults, some medications increase urination and can lead to dehydration. Anyone exercising vigorously, especially in hot weather, can quickly become dehydrated.

Symptoms include extreme thirst; dry mouth; infrequent, dark-colored urine; dizziness; and confusion. Young children may have sunken eyes, cheeks, and soft spot on top of the skull.

Severe dehydration is a serious medical emergency that can lead to heat stroke, kidney damage, seizures, coma, and death. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and urine tests.

Mild dehydration can be treated simply by drinking extra water, or water with electrolytes such as sports drinks. More serious cases may be hospitalized for intravenous fluids.

It's important for anyone who is outside in hot weather, or who is ill, to drink extra fluids even before feeling thirsty as thirst is not always a reliable guide.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, vomiting or diarrhea, racing heart beat, being severely ill

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Myofascial pain syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is also called chronic myofascial pain (CMP.) Pressure on certain points of the muscles causes referred pain, meaning the pain is felt elsewhere in the body.

The cause is believed to be muscle injury through overuse, either from sports or from a job requiring repetitive motion. Tension, stress, and poor posture can also cause habitual tightening of the muscles, a form of overuse.

This overuse causes scar tissue, or adhesions, to form in the muscles. These points are known as trigger points, since they trigger pain at any stimulus.

Symptoms include deep, aching muscular pain that does not go away with rest or massage, but may actually worsen. There is often difficulty sleeping due to pain.

Myofascial pain syndrome should be seen by a medical provider, since it can develop into a similar but more severe condition called fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and applying mild pressure to locate the trigger points.

Treatment involves physical therapy, pain medications, and trigger point injections. In some cases, acupuncture and antidepressants are helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain in the back of the neck, tender muscle knot, general numbness

Symptoms that always occur with myofascial pain syndrome: tender muscle knot

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Muscle Aches All Over Treatments and Relief

If your muscle aches are minor or you are certain of the cause, such as excess tension or alcohol use, conservative treatments beginning at home should provide relief. For severe cases, you should consult your physician or the emergency department, if necessary.

At-home treatments

The following treatments for muscle aches all over can begin at home.

  • Pain medication: Take over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for mild muscle aches.
  • Heat: Try sitting in a hot tub or hot bath.
  • Movement: Try exercises that promote stretching and mental relaxation, such as yoga and meditation.
  • Lifestyle adjustments: Take steps to improve overall health regarding diet, exercise, and sleep, and work on stress management.
  • Avoid certain triggers: Avoid grapefruit juice if you are taking any medications. Grapefruit sometimes increases the absorption rate and can actually cause an overdose.

When to see a doctor

The following reasons are important to address with your physician. He or she can provide you with appropriate solutions.

  • Examination: You should point out if you have any tick bites that are followed by muscle pain and other flu-like symptoms.
  • If you are on statins: You should closely monitor your reaction to any statin drugs you are taking, even if you do not have symptoms.
  • For anxiety or depression: You should have a discussion to possibly start antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication for cases of chronic muscle pain, especially fibromyalgia.
  • If you sleep poorly: You may choose to join a sleep study, since chronic pain may be related to poor sleep.
  • For therapeutic massage: Regular massages may help alleviate tense muscles or pain.
  • To improve fitness: You may wish to visit a physical therapist for an exercise program to help create a better level of fitness.

When it is an emergency

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if the following occur:

  • Rhabdomyolysis: You are taking a statin drug and also have muscle pain, weakness, and dark urine.
  • Meningitis: You have a very stiff neck and fever associated with muscle pain.

FAQs About Muscle Aches All Over

Here are some frequently asked questions about muscle aches all over.

Does poor physical fitness cause all-over muscle pain?

Being in poor physical condition can lead to all-over muscle pain if the muscles are suddenly exerted or you participate in more activity than your muscles are used to [6]. Having weak muscles can also lead to earlier fatigue when completing activities, as well as muscle pain. However, this pain will likely be more localized to the muscles that were overworked. If you are starting a new exercise regimen, you should always consult your physician first, especially if you are unfamiliar with proper training techniques.

Does chiropractic care help chronic muscle pain?

Chiropractic manipulation is designed to help the hard tissues the bones and joints and to properly adjust and align the skeletal structure. Massage is often more effective when it comes to the muscle soreness caused by stress or by autoimmune disease, but in some cases, chiropractic care is helpful, too.

Does diabetes, or high blood sugar in general, cause muscle aches?

Diabetes itself does not cause muscle aches. However, diabetes often leads to neuropathy (nerve damage) and this does cause numbness and pain, particularly in the feet and lower legs. High blood sugar results in severe fatigue while insulin, given as medication to lower blood sugar, can cause muscle cramps. Diabetes must be carefully managed to avoid nerve and muscle pain.

Does "muscle pain" involve any other structures in and around the muscles?

In many cases, yes. The ligaments, which attach bones together; the tendons, which hold muscles to bone; and the fascia, the thin white sheets of tough tissue that surround the muscles, can all be affected by overuse, injury, and medication. In this way, they can all contribute to the feeling of all-over muscle pain.

Can working out cause all-over muscle pain?

No. At first, it may seem like it, but the soreness after exercising will nearly always be localized, at least to some degree, depending on exactly what parts of the body were overworked [6]. With systemic (all-over) muscle pain, the muscles tend to be equally painful throughout the body and there are nearly always other symptoms, such as fever.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

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Muscle Aches All Over Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced muscle aches all over have also experienced:

  • 8% Fatigue
  • 5% Muscle Aches
  • 2% Joint Pain

People who have experienced muscle aches all over were most often matched with:

  • 43% Rhabdomyolysis
  • 37% Dehydration
  • 18% Fibromyalgia

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Muscle Aches All Over Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your muscle aches all over

References

  1. Vorvick LJ. Muscle aches. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated May 14, 2017. MedlinePlus Link
  2. Influenza: How to prevent and treat a serious infection. Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Updated December 4, 2017. Harvard Health Publishing Link
  3. NHS. Updated January 3, 2016. NHS Link
  4. Latif W. Rhabdomyolysis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 1, 2017. MedlinePlus Link
  5. Meningitis, viral. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated July 21, 2018. CDC Link
  6. McFarland EG, Cosgarea A. 'Good pain' versus 'bad pain' for athletes. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.