Myalgia and myositis both cause discomfort in the muscle, but they are very different conditions in the sense that one creates muscle pain and the other inflammation.
Myalgia means muscle pain or aching. An example of a myalgia would be the ailment fibromyalgia. The word fibro derives from the New Latin, “Fibro” – meaning “fibrous tissue” while myalgia implies pain. People who suffer from fibromyalgia experience chronic widespread muscle and joint pain.
Myositis means the muscles are inflamed. Inflammation doesn’t always cause pain; sometimes it causes weakness. Since myalgia and myositis refer to a symptom, which is generally a body response, such as pain or inflammation, they can be linked to a wide number of disorders. Therefore, a specific diagnosis is needed to treat people with these conditions.
Diseases that may cause myalgia and myositis
There are a number of causes of myalgia and myositis that have been documented by medical professionals. Viruses like influenza, herpes simplex, Epstein Barr and poliomyelitis, as well as bacterial infections, including strep throat and Lyme disease, have been associated with the conditions.
Histoplasmosis, a fungus found in the droppings of birds and bats in humid climates that can infect human lungs, has been linked to myalgia and myositis. Additionally, there is evidence that the following could be causes of myalgia and myositis.
- Medications (anticonvulsants, antibiotics, anticancer agents, diuretics)
- Substance abuse
- Poisons (snake, insect, spider bites or strychnine)
- Deficiencies in vitamin C and B-complex
- Deficiencies in minerals and electrolytes
When it comes to myalgia, certain endocrine and metabolic disorders, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease, diabetes mellitus and diabetic neuropathy can lead to pain. Connective tissue diseases, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and polymyalgia involve inflammation and may include myalgia and myositis.
A number of autoimmune diseases have been associated with both myalgia and myositis. The most well known are multiple sclerosis, lupus, and sarcoidosis.
Types of myalgia
There are four myalgia types, and no matter which type a person suffers from it can impact quality of life. The type of myalgia depends on what area of the body is being affected and what muscles are involved.
Epidemic myalgia is known as Bornholm disease. This is a muscle pain primarily caused by a viral infection. It affects the upper abdomen and lower chest area. Fibromyalgia is widespread pain that involves pain on both sides of the body. It is often described as a dull, constant aching. It is aggravated by applying pressure to what are known as the pain-points – the specific areas where the sufferer feels the dull pain.
There is also a myalgia called Trapezius. This involves the muscle of the neck and is triggered by problems with the trapezius muscle. This is a long-lasting pain that is worse in stressful situations and during repetitive work.
Polymyalgia is the most common inflammatory rheumatic disease among elderly people in America. It can cause extreme pain, stiffness and inflammation in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, upper arms, hips and buttocks.
Causes of myalgia
When you consider that the definition of myalgia is simply pain – it is easy to understand that the most common causes are injuries. Strains, sprains, swelling, bruising and tension can all lead to pain. This can occur often during sporting events or during winter when people fall more due to icy conditions. It also happens when people strain their muscles through repetitive work or by bending and lifting improperly. These causes of myalgia are called localized. When myalgia affects the whole body and is chronic, it becomes an illness.
As established earlier, infectious diseases have been linked to myalgia and so have a range of autoimmune diseases. Medications such as fibrates, statins and cocaine have been associated with myalgia in some cases, too.
Prevention and home remedies of myalgia
If you are suffering from pain caused by physical activity or tension, there are steps you can take to lessen the pain and lower your risk of developing this type of pain again.
- Remember to stretch muscles before and physical activity.
- Stay hydrated, especially when you are active.
- Participate in regular exercise to keep muscles toned.
- Stretch regularly if you work at a desk.
When you do experience muscle pain from either injury or overuse, you can apply ice for the first 24 hours to help reduce the inflammation and pain. In some cases, after the 24 hours, heat feels more soothing. Many people have found that with fibromyalgia massage helps them to feel better. Gentle stretching can also be helpful.
No matter what the root of the pain is, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding stress is important. Studies show taking it a step further by incorporating yoga or meditation into your daily routine can further ease pain for some people.
Types of myositis
There are, in fact, different types of myositis. Myositis can be short-term and the inflammation goes away after a few days or weeks, but in other cases it can be long-term or chronic. The problem with chronic myositis is that it can lead to muscle atrophy, which is the wasting and shrinking of muscle. This can result in disability.
The different types of myositis include, idiopathic inflammatory myopathies, infectious myositis, benign acute myositis, myositis ossificans, and drug-induced myositis.
- Idiopathic inflammatory myopathies: a rare group of diseases that include dermatomyositis, polymyositis and inclusion body myositis. Idiopathic means there is no known cause.
- Infectious myositis: can occur as part of an infection, especially a viral infection. It can be common in people who have the flu. It can also be caused by an infection in which tiny parasites invade the muscles.
- Benign acute myositis: happens in children who are recovering from flu or other respiratory infections caused by a virus.
- Myositis ossificans: a lump of bony material forms inside a muscle. This normally happens following a muscle injury.
- Drug-induced myositis: muscle inflammation occurs due to side effects of medication. This is rare, but can happen with certain medications, such as cholesterol-lowering statins and Retrovir, a drug used to treat HIV/AIDS.
Symptoms of myositis
Muscle weakness, muscle tenderness and muscle pain are typical symptoms of myositis; however, symptoms can depend on the cause of the condition. For example, if you are suffering from infectious myositis, you may also experience a high fever, chills, a sore throat, cough, fatigue and a runny nose. When a child has benign acute myositis he or she may suddenly complain about having severe pain in the leg and difficulty walking. In most cases the child has recently had a fever and upper respiratory symptoms. With ossificans myositis symptoms appear several weeks after the injury. When you press the lump that appears, it will hurt.
Treatment and prevention of myositis
Since scientists don’t know the cause of myositis, there are no specific prevention guidelines. Both infectious and drug-induced myositis is potentially preventable though. To avoid these forms of myositis people can get a flu shot every year, keep skin clean, and never inject illegal drugs under skin or into muscles. Additionally, if prescription drugs have to be injected, the injection site should be clean.
As far as treating myositis goes, it varies depending on the type. It could include bed rest, medications, non-prescription therapies for fever and muscle aches and pains. In some cases, such as drug-induced myositis, doctors will discontinue any medications they think are causing the problem and apply therapies that could help the patient recover faster. Unfortunately, there are situations where surgery is necessary. For example, this can happen in some cases of myositis ossificans, where a lump has to be surgically removed.
Myalgia and myositis treatment focuses on making the patient more comfortable and removing any obstacles that could lead to other health problems. For example, studies show that too much inflammation in our bodies can lead to a long list of other diseases.
Identifying whether a person has myalgia, myositis or both is the first step in getting to the root of the problem and then getting that person on the road to recovery.