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Why Does My Body Ache?

An aching pain in any part of your body can be a big distraction when you’re trying to focus on your daily activities. It’s hard to get anything done when you feel a nagging pain in your muscles, an intense headache or body aches all over. If severe enough, body aches can make it difficult to move around or even get out of bed. Body aches can be especially alarming if you aren’t sure what’s causing them. Identifying the cause of your body aches can make it easier to manage the pain and help you talk to your doctor about treatment options. Read on to learn more about common body ache causes and how you can help manage the pain.

Woman with body aches sitting up in bed

Body Aches and Illness

When you feel sick, you may feel symptoms that can keep you in bed for days. Body aches and headaches are symptoms that you can experience in both the flu and a common cold.1,2 Other illnesses like acute bronchitis and mononucleosis can cause body aches and headaches as well.3,4 Although common cold and flu symptoms are very similar, the intensity of pain can help distinguish which condition you have. Body aches and headaches are more common and often more severe in people with the flu.1 Flu symptoms usually come on more abruptly than cold symptoms, so a sudden case of body aches may be associated with the flu.1

How Do Illnesses Cause Body Aches?

Your body works hard to help you feel better when you get sick. The reason why you feel body aches when you’re fighting off an illness is due to a process called inflammation. When your body encounters a virus, it activates your immune system and sends out inflammatory cells and cytokines to fight it.5 The attacking cells work to fight the virus and heal any damaged tissue, which can result in pain, swelling and redness.5 The type of inflammation that occurs when you’re sick is called acute inflammation.5 Acute inflammation is the body’s natural response to a virus or injury, but chronic inflammation is when your body continuously sends inflammatory cells and damages cells that help your body.5 Chronic inflammation is much more serious, but the risk of getting it can be reduced through healthy lifestyle habits.5

When your body is fighting a virus, you may either experience myositis (muscle inflammation and weakness) or myalgia (joint and muscle pain).6 There is no cure for the flu or cold, but there are treatments that can help most symptoms subside with time.1,2 The pain that you feel is caused by your body’s immune response instead of the virus itself, so body aches and pains should start to go away once the body fights off the infection.6

Body Aches and Exercise

If you’ve ever exercised after not working out for a while, you may have felt some soreness and aching the next day. When you try a physical activity for the first time or change up your exercise routine, you may feel the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.7 The muscle aches you experience during DOMS may come on six to 12 hours after working out and can last up to 48 hours.7 Pain after a workout can also occur as a result of mild inflammation or microtears in your muscles or tendons.8 Having tears in your muscles might sound scary, but this pain is actually beneficial to the growth of your muscles. The muscles repair themselves while you rest, which helps them to grow and get stronger.7

Be mindful of potential body aches if you are looking to start a new physical activity. Exercises that require you to use your entire body can cause pain and soreness in several parts of your body. Some physical activity may help ease the aching, but it’s best to avoid strenuous exercises if you feel too much pain.7

How to Help Ease Body Aches Caused by Exercise and Illness

When dealing with pain from exercise, the key to relieving pain is to apply heat or ice and resting when necessary.7 Do stretches before exercising and stay hydrated to avoid straining your muscles.7Be sure to take it slow when you’re starting a new physical activity or are exercising for the first time in a while.7 Most soreness and pain is temporary, but be sure to talk to your doctor if the pain is persistent and not going away.7

Body aches that are caused by an illness will go away once your body fights off the infection, but it still helps to find ways to ease the pain. Getting plenty of rest and using ice can help relieve the discomfort of acute inflammation caused by an infection.5 Over-the-counter pain relief medicines can also help with the pain while recovering from an illness. To combat body aches and other cold and flu symptoms, try Robitussin Maximum Strength Severe Multi-Symptom Cold Cough + Flu. Each dose of this powerful formula contains 650 mg of acetaminophen to help relieve pain and reduce fever. You can also try Robitussin Maximum Strength Honey Severe Cough, Flu + Sore Throat for a pain relieving formula that’s flavored with great-tasting honey.

Seek medical care if your body aches get worse or do not go away over time. Learn about immune system booster foods, and find helpful health advice from the Robitussin Cough and Cold Center.

Source Citations:

  1. Flu Symptoms and Complications. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 12/6/2021.
  2. Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 12/6/2021.
  3. Chest Cold (Acute Bronchitis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 12/6/2021.
  4. About Infectious Mononucleosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Accessed 12/6/2021.
  5. Inflammation. Cleveland Clinic.  Accessed 12/6/2021.
  6. Why do muscles, joints ache during the flu? Loma Linda University Health.  Accessed 12/6/2021
  7. Is There Such a Thing as ‘Good Pain’ and When Should You Listen to Your Body? Cleveland Clinic.  Accessed 12/7/2021.
  8. Muscle Pain. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed 12/7/2021.
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