Muscle fever

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 10, 2015
StartSymptomsMuscle fever

Everyone experiences a soreness in their muscles from time to time. When this soreness lingers for an extended period of time, it can actually indicate a condition known as muscle fever. Individuals experience this condition most often after extreme exertion or when participating in an activity that is strenuous. Muscle fever is at its most intense in the first 24 hours, but it could plague a person for days.


Definition & Facts

Muscle fever is also referred to the medical term known as delayed onset muscle soreness. It is most commonly experienced after an intense workout, especially for individuals who have not been taking part in a regular exercise routine. Doing strenuous work, tackling a difficult job that requires physical exertion, puts pressure on the muscles, making them work in an unaccustomed manner.

The end result is pain and discomfort. Unless there is a pulled or torn muscle, most victims of muscle fever don't feel the effects of the condition immediately. They may even feel exhilarated and energetic after the exercise session is over, leaping into the rest of their day without a second thought. It is within a 24-hour period, most typically by the next morning, that soreness and stiffness in the muscles sets in. It may be so painful that it is hard to move and there is a negative impact on flexibility.


When the muscles are involved in a lengthening contraction, also referred to as an eccentric contraction, it causes minor trauma to the muscles. In addition, lactic acid is produced during high levels of activity and accumulates in the muscles. As this natural byproduct builds up, it can irritate the muscles in the process.

Once a workout or period of exertion is over, the body begins the remarkable process of repairing itself. A combination of nutrients, anti-inflammatory substances, and white blood cells make their way to the muscles that have been affected, repairing any minor tears that have occurred. While this is a healing process, it causes pain. That old expression, "No pain, no gain," holds true when it comes to exercise.

Until the body becomes accustomed to intense exercise and stamina increases, muscle fever is likely to occur. It can vary in levels of intensity and duration. Muscle fever results most often when individuals try and take on an exercise regimen after they have periods of little activity. The body is not accustomed to the strain and pain results.

When to see a doctor

Muscle fever will generally resolve itself on its own within a few days after strenuous activity. A period of rest, warm baths and showers, and soothing massages are helpful, as well as anti-inflammatory medications. However, it is important to see a doctor if:

It is vital to see a doctor any time that there are unexplained symptoms that go beyond the pain. No one should ignore any symptoms that are severe. Most importantly, if the pain does not go away after an extended period of time, it indicates that there could be a serious injury caused by overexertion. Muscle pain could also indicate that there is an underlying condition that needs to be properly diagnosed in order to be treated effectively.

In rare cases, muscle pain that also includes fever and weakness could be forewarning of a life-threatening condition. People need to be aware of their bodies and pay attention to any symptoms that are cause for concern.

Treatment & Therapy

While muscle fever can be extremely uncomfortable, it is possible to manage the pain and stiffness that accompanies this condition. Massage is extremely beneficial after muscle fever has set in. A variety of pain relieving gels are available as well to provide relief from pain and stiffness.

Pain relieving pills are also effective. Cold and hot compresses are helpful when sore muscles needed to be soothed. Eating foods that are rich in protein and carbohydrates can help the body to repair itself. Bananas, a fruit that is high in potassium, and honey are good additions to the diet that can aid muscles in need of recovery.

Eventually, a return to moderate levels of exercise is recommended to ease the pain. This can only occur once the worst of the pain has lessened. Start with gradual movement that can become more intense over the course of time. Avoid strain that could cause a setback, more damage, or an injury.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

The best way to prevent muscle fever is to be aware of one's limitations. It's important to avoid overexertion. Too many people jump into an activity at full intensity levels or try to do a strenuous job without any help. No matter what the form of activity is, it should be started slowly, especially when a fitness regimen is involved.

Anyone who is starting an exercise program needs to start at an easy level and gradually work up to more intense forms of exercise. If strenuous work is involved, a team approach should be taken to help bear the burden. It is also vital that the body remain hydrated. Muscle soreness sets in easily when the body's level of hydration drops down. Eccentric motion is a common factor that contributes to muscle fever. By avoiding this type of movement or limiting, less soreness is likely.

Those who are fitness enthusiasts know how important it is to eat the right kind of foods after a strenuous workout. Consuming high levels of electrolytes and proteins can help muscles to repair themselves. Going for a massage and a hot soak after intense forms of activity is also beneficial. The final step in avoiding muscle fever is to keep moving. Continue to make muscles function to maintain range of motion and mobility.

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