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Quick Dose: When Should I See a Physician for Muscle Aches and Joint Pains?

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Most people experience aches and pains at some point, usually caused by tension, stress and overuse. However, if you also have other symptoms, your body could be trying to tell you something.

Muscle aches and joint pain may occur as a result of a change in medication. This is most commonly associated with statins or antibiotics. You may also notice a skin rash or red eyes. Over-the-counter medications can provide some relief of these symptoms.

Muscle pain throughout your entire body may indicate an infection or illness. Other accompanying symptoms, such as inflammation, lack of sleep or a fever may indicate you have the flu.

Generalized muscle pain accompanied by fatigue; memory or mood issues; significant weight loss or weight gain; hives; or tingling in the hands, legs or feet may be a sign of fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders such as lupus or polymyositis, or thyroid problems.

Joint pain can occur if you injure any of the ligaments or tendons surrounding a joint. Joint pain accompanied by fatigue, fever, hair loss, or dry mouth or eyes can be a sign of arthritis, Lyme disease, lupus or gout. If you experience joint pain frequently, you may also notice worsened symptoms during seasonal changes, particularly during cold, wet weather.

Try using self-care measures at home to soothe basic aches and pains: Get plenty of rest, and try ice, a heating pad or a hot bath. If your pain persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, be sure to talk to your physician.

- David M. Mochel, MD, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group, Orthopaedic Surgery

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