Although aches and pains in the limbs are often not serious, they can still cause a considerable amount of discomfort and disruption to your daily activities. Knowing how to deal with aching and painful limbs -- and when to consult a doctor -- is important to prevent further injuries or complications.
Aches or pain in the arms and legs can be symptoms of an injury or, in some cases, an illness. However, those aches and pains can be just one component of your discomfort. Your muscles may feel tense, stiff or pulled. The combination of these symptoms can also lead to fatigue.
Muscle overuse or over-extension are common causes of aches and pains in the limbs. This may occur from jarring movements during routine activities such as cleaning or highly-physical work. However, exercise is a likely culprit, and discomfort in the muscles may result if you have started a new workout routine or repeatedly put pressure on a particular muscle group in the legs or arms. In addition, remaining in the same position for a prolonged period of time can lead to sore muscles. Mental stress is also capable of manifesting in physical ways, including muscle tension and aches, according to the National Health Service. Other potential causes include being overweight, longterm use of corticosteroids, which can cause bone deterioration, or being pregnant.
There are several methods to ease aching and painful muscles in the arms and legs. Cold packs can help ease the pain. Applying warm compresses following cold therapy softens muscle tissues, decreasing stiffness or inflexibility. Over-the-counter pain medications can also reduce discomfort. Stretching and light exercise may help with painful muscles, but avoid high-impact activities or those that require reaching high above, particularly if you have sore arms.
Stretching prior to exercise prepares the muscle for physical activity, which can help prevent overuse or over-extension. Staying hydrated and avoiding outdoor activity in hot temperatures can also be helpful in preventing achy limbs associated with muscle cramps, according to the American health resource MayoClinic.com. Be sure to drink fluids before, during and after exercise as well. Avoid remaining in the same position for long periods; stretching regularly if you spend the day working at a desk can prevent repetitive injuries.
Although muscle aches and pains in the limbs are not usually serious, consult a doctor if your symptoms last longer than three days. In addition, check with a doctor if you are experiencing swelling, redness or severe pain, or if you have recently started a new medication. Sudden water retention, a severely stiff neck, the inability to move muscles or breathing difficulty can be caused by major illnesses, and could require emergency treatment.