Just like other types of pain, muscle ache has the goal of warning you that something is not right with your muscles. Muscle ache is generally the consequence of an infection or damage to your muscles. Muscle ache can also be caused by stiff muscles. Because there are muscles throughout your entire body, you can experience muscle ache literally anywhere in your body. Even the pain in some organs can be considered to be muscle ache, because an important part of organs is built up from muscles.

What is muscle ache?

Almost everyone suffers from muscle ache sometimes. 4 out of 10 Dutch people suffer from muscle ache at least once per week. Muscle ache most commonly occurs in the form of:

  • Backache
  • Neck ache
  • Pain in the shoulders

Furthermore, a whole 80 percent of headaches can be linked to muscle ache. This means that headache develops from muscle ache, generally in the neck. This is also sometimes called tension headache, and very frequently occurs together with migraine.

How long does muscle ache generally last?

Muscle ache can differ in how long it lasts, frequency, and intensity. People often suffer from muscle ache after a workout, but generally this pain disappears after a few days. Muscle ache can thus acutely manifest as a result of more intensive use of the muscles. Only a small part of muscle ache is considered to be chronic. These muscle aches are generally treatable with the help of rest or eventual ointments which can be bought at the pharmacy.

There also are more intense types of muscle ache, such as a muscle cramp or a muscle tear. These types of muscle ache can manifest both acutely as well as chronically and sometimes require a different approach.

Symptoms of muscle ache?

There are different forms of muscle ache, just like there are different causes of muscle ache. Generally, muscle ache is caused as a result of damage to the tissue, and is experienced as a 'nagging pain'. The muscle can feel painful or stiff. The larger the tissue damage is, the more intense the pain can manifest.

The pain can also manifest at a shallow or deep level. This depends on the location of the muscle. If you suffer from shallow pain, it hurts when you press the muscle. This tends to be less when you suffer from a deeper muscle ache. If the muscle ache is caused by a sprain, this is also clearly indicated through shallow localization of the muscle as compared to an infection, which lies deeper.

Muscle ache generally occurs more frequently in older people. This is because the quality of one's muscles deteriorates once one gets older. Except for age, stress also influences how muscle ache is experienced. Stress can namely make it so that your muscles tense up for a long period of time. This is often a cause of tension headaches. In the case of tension headaches, the pain can both be experienced as 'nagging' as well as 'throbbing'. In the majority of people with a diagnosis migraine, tension headaches also occur frequently.

What are the causes of muscle ache?

The most common cause of muscle ache is an infection or over-exertion of your muscles. If you use your muscles frequently, chances of over-exerting them is reduced. Over-exertion often occurs in muscles which are not frequently used.

A stiff feeling in your muscles can be caused by some amount of over-exertion of your muscle fibers. However, it can also be so that the amount of over-exertion of your muscle fibers becomes very large. In that case, substances are released which trigger an infection. This response does not occur right after the over-exertion, but generally rather takes until a few days after it to occur. You will therefore never experience an inflammation of your over-exerted muscles right away.

Muscle ache furthermore also often goes together with being ill. For example, in some illnesses you can experience painful muscles. An example is the flu. Even catching a cold can have painful muscles as a consequence. However, you are much more likely to suffer painful muscles when you are ill as compared to muscular pain after over-exertion of the muscles. This is because the substances, which cause the muscle ache, are more easily released when you are ill as compared to when you have over-exerted your muscles. So muscle ache can also be a warning for certain illnesses such as the flu.

Except for specific causes of muscle ache, there also are more general causes of muscle ache. Think, for example, of the periods during the year during which everyone seems to be ill and everybody suffers from 'poor sleep' or 'muscle ache'. For example, changing temperatures can trigger muscle ache. People generally suffer more from muscle ache during colder seasons than they do during warmer seasons. A poor posture, too, can cause muscle ache. A majority of people namely do not sit correctly at their desk or take on a poor posture when driving. Body posture and temperature can thus be important factors when it comes to muscle ache.

Are there psychological causes of muscle ache?

You can be sure of this. A large amount of muscle aches are caused by psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety. Furthermore, over-exhaustion can also be an important factor in the development of muscle ache. It makes you more vulnerable to illnesses and increases your chances of getting migraine and headache. Sometimes, overworked emotions can also influence your body and that which it is linked to: your muscles. Emotions can namely make it so that your muscles are tensed up for longer periods of time, which can cause chronic muscle ache. This is also the case when you experience anxiety. Your body shows a physical anxiety response, which also includes muscular tension. This usually should have the function of responding more quickly to danger. Anxiety and stress in an anxiety disorder, however, often trigger pain.

How do I treat muscle ache?

Generally, muscle ache can be treated by taking painkillers, such as paracetamol, or using some sort of ointment, such as Flexiumgel. In case of a sprained muscle, bags of ice can bring relief. If this 'everyday' solutions do not help you, however, it can be useful to take further steps. Concretely this means that you can check out both the physical causes as well as the psychological causes of muscle ache. For example, you can go to your doctor or a specialist to check what physical causes of your muscle ache might be.

Moreover, it is useful to also check which psychological causes of muscle ache might be applicable to you. In many cases, muscle ache has to do with stress, or the pain can be worsened by some psychological factor. In this case, "15Minutes4Me.com" can help you. Doctors and psychologists put together an online self-help program which daily checks how your psychological causes of pain can be reduced. Furthermore, it plays a role in the vulnerability which causes the muscle ache in your body. At the hand of scientific techniques, the program teaches you to increase your pain tolerance level and to reduce your vulnerability.

The program thus also works with treating the pain. Get started today and learn how you can:

  1. Reduce pain by working on factors which you can change
  2. Recognize warning signals, so that you can take care of the frequency, duration, and intensity of your pain
  3. Start off relapse prevention, so that you can enjoy positive effects in the long-term.


Pain test?

Would you like to know what influence muscle ache can have on your life and if psychological causes of muscle ache might be at play? Then take the free stress induced pain test here!