Why Does My Body Ache?

Medically reviewed by Stacy Sampson, DO on June 12, 2017Written by Tim Jewell

Is this cause for concern?

Body aches are a common symptom of many conditions. The flu is one of the most well-known conditions that can cause body aches. Aches can also be caused by your everyday life, especially if you stand, walk, or exercise for long periods of time.

You may just need rest and some treatment at home to relieve your body aches. But some aches, especially ones that last a long time, may mean that you have an underlying condition. In these cases, you may need to see your doctor for a diagnosis. They can create a long-term treatment plan to can relieve your aches and other associated symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more about what may be causing your symptoms.

1. Stress

When you’re stressed out, your immune system can’t control its response to inflammation as well. As a result, your body can’t fight off infections or sickness as well as it usually can. This can cause your body to ache as it becomes more susceptible to inflammation and infection throughout your body.

Watch out for other symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as:

  • abnormally high heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • hot flashes or cold sweats
  • hyperventilating
  • abnormal physical shaking
  • headaches, such as tension headaches or migraines

If you think stress is causing your body aches, make small changes to your daily lifestyle to reduce your stress as much as possible. Try these steps:

  • Meditate for a few minutes per day. Focus on your breathing and take your mind off the people or events causing you stress.
  • Take a walk or leave a stressful environment to remove yourself from triggers.
  • Share your feelings of stress with someone you trust to help articulate the cause of your stress.
  • If you’re losing sleep over stress, try relaxation techniques before bed or take short naps throughout the day to refresh yourself.

Learn more: The best stress relief blogs of the year »

2. Dehydration

Water is an essential ingredient for your body’s normal and healthy functioning. Without it, your body can’t properly perform many of its important processes, including breathing and digestion. When you become dehydrated and these processes don’t work well, you can feel physical pain as a result.

Other symptoms of dehydration include:

  • dark urine
  • dizziness or disorientation
  • exhaustion
  • extreme thirst

If you don’t drink enough water, especially on a hot or dry day, you can become dehydrated quickly. You should aim to drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, plus more if you’re physically active and sweating.

If you’re dehydrated because of a condition like diarrhea, drink plenty of water until the episode passes. Drinking water or beverages with extra electrolytes can help keep you hydrated and replace the electrolytes lost to diarrhea, too.

If you can’t keep water down, see your doctor right away or seek emergency medical help to make sure you don't become severely dehydrated.

3. Lack of sleep

Not getting enough sleep can impact your overall health. You need at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night, including the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Your body’s tissues and cells need proper sleep to stay healthy, and your brain needs it to stay refreshed and alert. Without it, your body doesn’t have the time to rest and replenish essential energies and processes. This can lead to pain.

Other symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • confusion or disorientation
  • falling asleep during the day without realizing it
  • trouble understanding when reading or listening to others
  • trouble speaking properly
  • trouble remembering things

Try to establish a consistent sleep schedule every night. Your body needs to follow a daily rhythm, or circadian rhythm, to stay healthy.

Try techniques to relax before bed, such as:

  • drinking hot tea or other hot beverage
  • meditating
  • listening to music or a podcast
  • having white noise in the room, such as from a fan

4. Cold or flu

A cold and the flu are both viral infections that cause inflammation. These infections attack your body, and your immune system attempts to fight them off. Inflammation, especially in your throat, chest, and lungs, can be painful. The rest of your body might ache, too, as your body works hard to fight the infection.

Other common symptoms of a cold or flu include:

  • sore throat
  • hoarse voice
  • sneezing or coughing
  • thick, colored mucus
  • headaches or earaches

Getting rest, drinking plenty of water, and gargling with warm salt water to ease your throat pain can help your body get over a cold or the flu quickly. Over-the-counter medications, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and ibuprofen (Advil), can help relieve your symptoms and aches.

If you have cold or flu symptoms for more than a few weeks, or if you can’t eat, drink, or breathe properly, see your doctor. They can help treat your infection.

5. Anemia

Anemia happens when your body doesn’t have enough properly functioning red blood cells, so your body tissues can’t get enough oxygen. With anemia, many parts of your body can feel fatigued because they don’t get enough oxygen to remain healthy or to function properly.

Other symptoms of anemia include:

  • exhaustion
  • abnormal heart rate
  • dizziness or disorientation
  • head or chest pain
  • cold feet or hands
  • pale skin

Anemia has many causes. If you don’t have enough iron, folate, or vitamin B-12 in your system, taking a supplement for the deficiency may treat your anemia.

If supplements don’t help, see your doctor for an examination and possible diagnosis so that you can treat the underlying condition.

6. Vitamin D deficiency

Hypocalcemia, or a low blood calcium level, can happen when you don’t have enough vitamin D in your body. Many of your body’s important organs, such as your kidneys and muscles, rely on calcium to work properly. Your bones also need calcium to stay healthy. Without enough vitamin D to help you absorb calcium, you can feel aching in these organs and in your bones.

Other symptoms include:

  • body cramps
  • muscle twitching or spasms
  • dizziness or confusion
  • numbness
  • seizures

7. Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis is best known as mono, also called “the kissing disease.” It’s an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It’s very contagious, and one of the most common symptoms is body aches. Aches and fatigue may be caused in a generalized fashion or from inflammation and swelling blocking your airway.

Other symptoms include:

  • extreme exhaustion
  • swollen tonsils or lymph nodes
  • rash
  • sore throat
  • fever

Check out: 12 natural remedies for a sore throat »

8. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can affect your whole respiratory system, which is responsible for your breathing, sweating, and other important functions. If you can’t breathe well, your body can’t get enough oxygen to keep your red blood cells and tissues healthy. This can cause aches and pain all over your body.

Other symptoms include:

  • coughing
  • pain in your chest
  • exhaustion
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • shortness of breath
  • hot flashes and cold sweats
  • fever

9. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition where your entire body, including your muscles and bones, can feel exhausted, achy, and sensitive. The cause of fibromyalgia is uncertain, but stressful events such as physical trauma, surgery, and infections may trigger it.

Other symptoms include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • sensitivity to light or sound
  • stiffness, especially in the morning
  • trouble remembering or thinking
  • tingling sensations in your hands and feet

Learn more: Fibromyalgia diet: Which foods should you avoid? »

10. Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that causes you to feel exhausted and weak, no matter how much rest or sleep you get. It often causes insomnia. Because your body doesn’t feel rested or replenished, CFS can also cause aches in the muscles and joints throughout your body.

Other symptoms include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • trouble remembering or thinking
  • dizziness or confusion

Check out: 12 diet hacks to reduce chronic fatigue »

11. Arthritis

Arthritis happens when your joints become inflamed. This can be caused by:

  • the cartilage around your joints breaking down, as in osteoarthritis
  • infection in a joint
  • autoimmune conditions that wear away the lining around your joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis or SLE

These can all cause aches in your joints and limit your movement.

Other symptoms of arthritis include:

  • stiffness in your joints
  • swelling, warmth, or redness around the joint
  • not being able to move a joint all the way

Learn more: Ayurvedic treatment for arthritis »

12. Lupus

Lupus happens when your immune system attacks the tissues around your body, including blood vessels, organs, and joints. Because of the damage and inflammation caused by this autoimmune condition, pain and aches in the body are common.

Other symptoms include:

  • exhaustion
  • rash
  • fever
  • swelling or redness around joints
  • seizures
  • sensitivity to sunlight

13. Lyme disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi spreading to your body through a tick bite. Aches are a common symptom, especially in your muscles and joints. If Lyme disease goes untreated, it can cause neuromuscular and joint conditions, such as arthritis and facial paralysis.

Other symptoms include:

  • exhaustion
  • hot flashes and cold sweats
  • fever
  • headaches

Learn more: Lyme disease antibody test »

14. Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection caused by airborne spores from the soil or the droppings of bats or birds. These are common around construction projects, farmlands, or caves, where large amounts of spores are released into the air.

Body aches are a common symptom of histoplasmosis. Other symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • chest pain
  • headaches
  • coughing

Learn more: Histoplasma skin test »

15. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is thought to be an autoimmune condition. It’s a central nervous system condition in which the tissue around your nerve cells, called myelin, breaks down because of constant inflammation. The damage interrupts your nervous system’s ability to transmit sensations properly. As a result, you can feel aches, pain, tingling, or other abnormal sensations.

Other symptoms include:

  • weakness
  • exhaustion
  • blurry vision
  • temporary or permanent blindness, typically in only one eye
  • trouble walking or staying balanced
  • trouble remembering or thinking

When to see your doctor

Seek emergency medication attention if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • trouble breathing
  • trouble eating or drinking
  • passing out
  • seizures
  • extreme fatigue or exhaustion
  • bad cough that won’t go away after a few days

If other, milder symptoms last for more than two weeks, see your doctor. They can examine you for a possible underlying condition. They can then give you a treatment plan to help reduce the aches and treat the cause.

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