How To Treat Muscle Pain In Yourself Or Your Child
Muscle Pain: Symptoms, Causes, and Relief
Muscle pains and aches, also known as myalgia, are extremely common and something that most people will experience at some point in their lives. Usually, muscle pain is localized and felt in just a few muscles or one part of the body. However, systemic muscle pain can occur wherein you feel pain throughout your body.
Given that there is muscle tissue in almost all parts of the body, it is possible to feel muscle pain everywhere. Although this type of pain is so common, there is not a single cause of muscle pain. For the most part, muscle pain in both adults and children is treatable.
Causes of Muscle Pain in Adults
There are several causes of muscle pain in adults. Usually, adults experiencing muscle pain can pinpoint the cause -- especially if it is localized, in which case strenuous activity is typically the culprit. Often, if you do a new form of exercise, you are likely to experience muscle pain. For example, if you usually exercise by running, but decide to play a game of basketball instead, you’ll likely experience muscle soreness afterward because you used a new set of muscles.
You might also experience muscle soreness after physical activity if you suddenly increase the intensity or duration of your workout, warm-up, and cool down before and after your workout, you might experience muscle pain.
When you make changes to your exercise routine such as these, you can cause small injuries to your muscle fibers and connective tissues. This type of soreness is known as “delayed onset” muscle soreness because it will peak about a day after your exercise.
Luckily, the more you do an activity, the less likely you are to experience this kind of muscle pain as you strengthen your muscles.
Stress and Tension
Another common cause of muscle pain in adults is stress and tension. Oftentimes, stress can cause soreness in the muscles in the neck and back.
When you are stressed, your body releases adrenaline which, among other things, causes the muscles around your spine to tense and spasm. This tensing and spasming happens as a way to prepare your body in case you need to flee the source of the stress. However, it can also cause uncomfortable muscle pain in the neck and back.
Alongside physical activity, stress, and tension, muscle pain in adults can also be the result of several medical conditions. In order to understand your muscle pain better and the medical condition that is potentially the cause of the pain, it’s best to consult with your doctor.
Some medical conditions that are associated with muscle pain include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Autoimmune disorders (lupus, dermatomyositis, etc.)
- Thyroid problems
- Inflections (flu, polio, bacterial infections)
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Lyme disease
- Low potassium levels
Causes of Muscle Pain in Children
Although muscle pain is also common in children like it is in adults, the causes of muscle pain in children are somewhat different. This section will examine the most common causes of muscle pain in children, specifically the phenomenon of “growing pains,” and other medical conditions that can cause muscle pain.
What are growing pains?
Growing pains are the most common cause of muscle pain in kids and may be the cause of your child’s pain. Usually, they occur during a child’s preschool and preteen years and tend to dissipate during their teenage years.
Kids often complain of feeling growing pains in their thighs, calf muscles, and behind their knees. However, growing pains can also be felt in the arms. Sometimes, cramps can be felt alongside growing pains, and the actual muscle pain can range from mild to severe.
The thought behind growing pains is that they occur as the bones grow quickly during growth spurts.
Although the exact cause of growing pains is not known, it is known that this theory is actually incorrect. Growing pains are not a result of actual growth. They may be aches caused by running, jumping, and climbing or related to other factors such as fatigue, restless leg syndrome, or vitamin D deficiency.
If you’re having trouble assessing whether your child’s muscle pains are just growing pains or a symptom of something worse, keep in mind that other characteristics of growing pains are:
- They usually happen at night and go away in the morning
- They tend to affect both legs
- They can happen intermittently or several nights consecutively
- They can be intense enough to wake your child up
- They can also be accompanied by headaches or abdominal pain
Although muscle pains in children are usually the result of growing pains, they can also be the sign of a more serious condition such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, lupus, Lyme disease, or leukemia.
If your child has severe muscle pains or you suspect that their pain may be caused by something more serious than growing pains, take them to the doctor immediately.
Muscle pain is uncomfortable and disruptive, but it can be treated in a variety of ways. This section will examine several treatment options that can help ease muscle pains.
If you or your child is experiencing muscle pains occasionally, you can try an over-the-counter kids’ pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can also try a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin for your muscle pains, but make sure to never give aspirin to children seeing as it has been linked to Reye’s syndrome.
Ice and Heat
You can also try both ice and heat to ease your muscle soreness or that of your child if it is caused by physical activity.
It is suggested that you use indirect ice (ice wrapped in a towel or other covering) right after you engage in physical activity. This will reduce the amount of inflammation in the area. If you think your muscle pain is the result of a sprain or strain, continue icing it for up to three days after depending on how long the pain persists.
After you ice your muscles, you can try using a heat pack later. The heat will increase blood flow to the area and relieve joint pain. If you’re using a heating pad to treat your child’s muscle pain, make sure that the pad is not too hot and they’re not using it during sleep when they could unknowingly touch a very hot part of the pad. You can also try a warm bath to ease your child’s pain. The warmth of the bath may help reduce their aches and also help them sleep.
One of the most important things you can do for muscle pain aside from medication is ice is to rest the part of your body where the muscles are aching. This may mean you have to avoid high-impact activities or intense weight lifting until the pain is gone. By avoiding these kinds of activities, you can greatly reduce your risk of seriously damaging your muscles.
In place of intense, strenuous activities, you can do other activities that will promote muscle repair. For example, you can gently stretch your or your child’s muscles. For children experiencing growing pains, stretching their thighs and calves may prevent pain at night. You can also try activities such as yoga and meditation which may help relieve stress-induced muscle pain.
If you believe your muscle pain is caused by stress or physical activity or your child’s muscle pain is the result of growing pains, there are a few steps you can take to prevent some of this pain such as:
- Stretching every morning as part of your daily routine
- Doing a 5-minute long warmup and cool down before and after every activity
- Drinking plenty of water, especially when you’re working out
- Being active daily to promote muscle growth
- Stretching throughout the day if you work at a desk or are sedentary for large parts of the day
Muscle pain is a common complaint from adults and children alike. In adults, muscle pain is usually caused by strain from physical activity, stress, or tension. Children who complain of muscle pain are often experiencing growing pains which, contrary to what you might have heard, are not actually caused by bones growing.
For both adults and children, muscle pain can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, so if you or your child’s pain persists or is severe, you should see your doctor to seek a professional diagnosis.
If your or your child’s muscle pain is not indicative of a more serious medical condition, you can treat it at home using over-the-counter medication, a combination of ice and heat, and other simple, effective remedies. In order to prevent future muscle pain, it is advisable to incorporate regular stretching into your daily routine.