10 Possible Causes of Body Aches

09 October, 2020
Body aches are a common symptom that many conditions can cause. From temporary discomforts to chronic autoimmune diseases, they’re capable of causing discomfort that affects a person’s quality of life.

Many different conditions can cause body aches. In fact, it’s such a common symptom that it could actually be attributed to almost any condition. It’s also one of the most common reasons why people visit their doctors.

Body aches are a subjective experience that has an emotional impact and worsens the sufferer’s quality of life. This is especially noticeable in chronic cases. Many times, the evolution of the aches is acute, as in infections, and is expected to be self-limiting. On the other hand, other times, it can become prolonged and even chronic.

Today, we’ll tell you about 10 possible causes of body aches that are relatively common in the general population.

The 10 most common causes of body aches

A woman with the flu.
The flu is very common and causes general malaise. In fact, it can leave you bedridden for days.

1. The flu

The flu is an acute respiratory illness that mostly occurs during the winter. It’s caused by influenza A or B viruses. It affects people from all over the world.

The infectious process itself is self-limiting and uncomplicated. However, it’s associated with higher mortality in certain at-risk populations, such as those who suffer from chronic diseases and the immunocompromised. Experts recommend annual preventive vaccination for these groups.

Uncomplicated influenza can last for a week or more. It causes respiratory symptoms, such as mucus, sore throat, and cough, along with fever, headache, myalgia (muscle pain), and weakness. Also, inflammation, especially in the throat, chest, and lungs, can be painful.

2. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is the most common cause of chronic widespread skeletal and muscular body aches. It affects 2% to 8% of the population. The pain also causes fatigue, memory problems, and sleep disturbances. Its true origin is still unknown.

It mostly affects women between the ages of 20 and 55. During a physical examination, the medical professional typically doesn’t detect any abnormalities other than widespread soft tissue tenderness. Laboratory and radiological studies may even come back normal.

Thus, the goal of the treatment is to reduce the main symptoms of this disorder. Therefore, medical professionals resort to a variety of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies. Rehabilitation sessions, massage, alternative treatments like acupuncture, and therapy are also useful.

3. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and body aches

Next, chronic fatigue syndrome is another disease of unknown etiology. It’s chronic and affects a large part of the body. Thus, it’s a disabling disorder that drastically limits the sufferer’s activities.

This condition is difficult to diagnose due to the lack of corroborating studies. People who suffer from it have headaches, muscle pain, and joint pain.

However, the National Academy of Sciences developed a series of diagnostic criteria to facilitate diagnosis. According to these criteria:

  • There must be a substantial reduction or impairment in the ability to engage in pre-illness levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities.
  • It must persist for more than six months and be accompanied by fatigue.
  • This, in turn, is ofter profound, is of new or definite onset (not lifelong), is not the result of ongoing excessive exertion.
  • Finally, the pain isn’t substantially alleviated by rest.

This article may interest you: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

4. Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease (the immune system attacks its own tissues) of unknown etiology. In fact, it can affect any organ and doesn’t focus on a particular system. Due to damage and inflammation, body aches are common.

Also, patients may suffer from fatigue, rashes, random fever, swelling, or redness around the joints, seizures, and sensitivity to sunlight. Treatment is complex because the patient’s response to drugs can vary.

5. Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a disease spread by ticks. It’s characterized by the appearance of characteristic skin rashes in the form of migratory erythema (red spots). Also, it causes large joint pain, fatigue, headaches, and even muscle pain (pins and needles).

You should also read: Ticks: A Real Danger to Humans and Animals

6. Infectious mononucleosis and body aches

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes infectious mononucleosis. This condition is also called “the kissing disease” since it spreads through saliva.

It causes fever, pharyngitis, fatigue, swollen glands, headaches, general malaise, and body aches. Although it’s self-limiting, it physically depletes patients. During the most active period of the condition, it becomes impossible for patients to do basic activities.

7. Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, systemic disorder of unknown etiology. Although experts know that the underlying process that causes it is autoimmune, many varied situations can trigger the onset of symptoms.

It mainly affects the joints symmetrically, and leads to their destruction, causing deformities. In addition to pain, patients may suffer from fatigue, myalgia, fever, weight loss, and depression. The fact that it’s chronic and that it evolves in acute episodes makes it difficult to treat.

8. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating disease. In other words, it damages the myelin sheath of neurons. It’s autoimmune and the most common of these central nervous system pathologies.

Patients may suffer from pain, tingling, and other abnormal sensations. Other symptoms include weakness, exhaustion, blurred vision, temporary or permanent blindness, difficulty walking or standing, and memory disorders.

9. Dehydration

Next, dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in from drinks or foods. Vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, or drugs that make you urinate more than normal can cause it. Children and older adults are more likely to suffer from it.

Body water is an essential element for proper bodily functioning. Thus, dehydration causes multiple symptoms, such as excessive thirst, little urine, dry mouth, chapped lips, confusion, and fatigue. It causes body aches because, when the muscles are dehydrated, they produce toxic substances that irritate nerve endings.

A man with body aches
Overall, body aches can be caused by many different conditions, from autoimmune diseases to drug-induced myopathies.

10. Drug-induced myopathies

Finally, many drugs are usually prescribed by a doctor, and drug abuse can cause these conditions. The manifestations range from mild muscle pain and weakness to severe chronic injuries with kidney failure.

Overall, some examples of drugs that cause myopathies are alcohol, cocaine, glucocorticoids, statins, antipsychotics, colchicine, and antiretrovirals. The adverse effect doesn’t always appear. However, you should be careful if you’re taking these drugs.

Body aches have many causes

In short, the causes of body aches are so varied that it’d be impossible to list them all! Today, we listed the most common ones and those that most afflict the general population.

If you have persistent pain that you can’t explain and that also alters your quality of life, you should see a doctor. It’s important to identify the causes to get adequate treatment according to your needs. Avoid self-medicating and make an appointment with your doctor to address your concerns.

  • Tauben David and cols., Approach to the management of chronic non-cancer pain in adults, retrieved on 12 May 2020, Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support- UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/approach-to-the-management-of-chronic-non-cancer-pain-in-adults?search=body%20pain&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2
  • Kasper y col., Principios de medicina interna de Harrison, edición número 19, Editorial McGrawHill.
  • Goldenberg, D. L. (1987). Fibromyalgia syndrome: an emerging but controversial condition. Jama257(20), 2782-2787.
  • Clauw, D. J. (2014). Fibromyalgia: a clinical review. Jama311(15), 1547-1555.
  • Gluckman Stephen and cols., Clinical features and diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, retrieved on 12 May 2020, Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support- UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-features-and-diagnosis-of-myalgic-encephalomyelitis-chronic-fatigue-syndrome?search=cronic%20fatigue%20syndrome&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~145&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  • Prins, J. B., Van der Meer, J. W., & Bleijenberg, G. (2006). Chronic fatigue syndrome. The Lancet367(9507), 346-355.
  • Wallace Daniel and cols., Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults, retrieved on 12 May 2020, Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support- UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-systemic-lupus-erythematosus-in-adults?search=lupus&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  • Linden Hu and cols., Clinical manifestations of Lyme disease in adults, retrieved on 12 May 2020, Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support- UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-of-lyme-disease-in-adults?
  • search=lyme&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  • Olek and cols., Clinical presentation, course, and prognosis of multiple sclerosis in adults, retrieved on 12 May 2020, Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support- UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-presentation-course-and-prognosis-of-multiple-sclerosis-in-adults?search=esclerosis%20multiple&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  • Skinner Taylor, Cassandra Michele, et al. “Enfermedad de Lyme.” Medicina universitaria 9.34 (2007): 24-32.
  • Miller M. and cols, Clinical manifestations of dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults, retrieved on 12 May 2020, Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support- UpToDate., https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-of-dermatomyositis-and-polymyositis-in-adults?search=dermatomiositis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
  • Sánchez-Schmidt, Julia M., and Ramón M. Pujol-Vallverdú. “Diagnóstico diferencial de las lesiones cutáneas en el lupus eritematoso.” Seminarios de la Fundación Española de Reumatología 7.1 (2006): 12-26.
  • Alparo Herrera, Indhira, Nelly Rocío Fabiani Hurtado, and Nadia Espejo Herrera. “Factores de riesgo para enfermedad diarreica aguda con deshidratación grave en pacientes de 2 meses a 5 años.” Revista de la Sociedad Boliviana de Pediatría 53.2 (2014): 65-70.
  • Miller M., Drug-induced myopathies, retrieved on 12 May 2020, Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support- UpToDate., https://www.uptodate.com/contents/drug-induced-myopathies?search=muscular%20pain&topicRef=2751&source=see_link