Body aches are extremely common and can be a symptom of many underlying conditions. While usually harmless, it is helpful to understand the cause of body aches and seek medical attention when appropriate.
Many underlying causes of body aches can be easily identified and treated without having to see a doctor. Body aches can vary in intensity and frequency. They may be described as sharp, intermittent pains or a dull but persistent ache. If a person experiences body aches, identifying the cause will help them find an appropriate treatment, as well as whether they have any reason to be concerned.
Symptoms that Accompany Body Aches
Body aches often occur alongside other symptoms. Recognizing other signs can help a person identify the cause and whether they should see a doctor. Symptoms that occur alongside body aches may include pain, fatigue, and weakness. Shivers or changes in body temperature, cold and flu-like symptoms might also be present.
POSSIBLE CAUSES OF BODY ACHES
There are many different reasons why body aches may occur. While most instances of body aches are easily treatable and relatively harmless, there are some more serious medical conditions that include body aches as a symptom.
Pain, fatigue, and muscle stiffness are all symptoms of fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes aches and pains throughout the body.
Fibromyalgia is thought to be related to how the central nervous system processes pain messages when they occur in the body.
2. Infections and viruses
The flu, the common cold, and other viral or bacterial infections can cause body aches. When such infections occur, the immune system sends white blood cells to fight off the infection, which can leave the muscles in the body feeling achy and stiff.
Some medicines and drugs, such as statins and blood pressure medications, have side effects that make the body feel sore, stiff, and achy. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and certain drugs, including cocaine and opiates, can also have a similar effect.
Retaining fluid in the body can cause the muscles to swell and press on the nerves, resulting in general muscular aches and pains. A person may also experience sharp, localized pains and cramps.
Thyroid problems, especially an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), can cause fluid retention. Other conditions that can cause a person to retain fluid include congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, severe malnutrition, chronic kidney disease and nephrotic syndrome, venous insufficiency, and problems with lymphatic drainage.
Hypokalemia is when a person has low potassium in their bloodstream. Low potassium affects the way nerves and muscles function, which can result in body aches, weakness, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
Stress can cause tension in the body and can also weaken the immune system. This may make the muscles feel stiff, as well as affect the body’s response to inflammation and infection.
Staying hydrated is essential to keep a person’s body functioning well. Dehydration can sometimes cause a person to feel tired and sore.
8. Lack of sleep
A lack of sleep may lead to exhaustion, which can cause aches and pains. Over time, not getting enough sleep can lead to exhaustion. This may make the body feel achy, sluggish, and heavy. Lack of sleep also affects the body’s ability to repair tissues and cells. When the body does not have sufficient time to repair and recuperate, a person may experience aches and pains more frequently.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be very dangerous if left untreated. Pneumonia may result in an inability to get enough oxygen into the body. Without enough oxygen, red blood cells and tissues in the body are not able to function properly, which may cause aches and pains.
10. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
In a similar way to a person who does not get enough sleep, someone with CFS may experience muscular aches in addition to insomnia, exhaustion, and weakness.
Arthritis occurs when a person’s joints become inflamed. Arthritis can be caused by wear and tear on the body or may be a result of an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack the healthy tissues that line the joints. Pain and achiness are common symptoms of arthritis.
12. Autoimmune disorders
A variety of autoimmune disorders can cause body aches. These include
- Lupus (which occurs when a person’s immune system begins to attack healthy tissues, causing inflammation),
- Myositis (which means “inflammation of the muscles). Other symptoms of myositis include fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) which is an autoimmune condition that affects the central nervous system. People with MS feel body aches and pains because the tissue surrounding their nerve cells has broken down due to persistent inflammation.
Home Treatments for Your Body Aches
Whether body aches are caused by a common cold or a more serious underlying condition, a person can try the following remedies to help alleviate the discomfort:
- Resting to allow the body time to repair and recuperate.
- Drinking plenty of fluids, as staying hydrated can help ease achiness caused by dehydration.
- Taking over-the-counter medications, including Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can reduce pain and inflammation.
- Having a warm bath, as the heat can help relax muscles and ease tension in the body.
- Regulating temperature, which may include reducing a fever, keeping warm, or staying cool to alleviate shivering and prevent the muscles from seizing up.
Mild body aches that improve over time and are eased by rest, rehydration, and over-the-counter treatment are usually no cause for concern.
However, body aches can also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. If a person experiences frequent or persistent body aches or aches that occur alongside other, more severe symptoms, they should speak with a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.