There's A Reason You Get Body Aches When You're Sick

About 26 to 50 million flu cases occurred between October 2022 and April 2023, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There's no doubt that catching the flu can be disruptive to your daily life. After all, symptoms such as coughing and congestioncan make performing routine activities difficult, even the most mundane of them. Furthermore, canceling plans or missing out on events due to illness can be disappointing and isolating.

Unfortunately, body aches are another frustrating aspect of being sick. They can make you feel powerless and vulnerable, especially if symptoms are severe or long-lasting. This loss of control can be particularly challenging if you're used to being independent and self-sufficient. While the severity and frequency of body aches can vary from person to person, they are a common experience for many people. But what exactly causes these aches and pains when you're sick? Well, it turns out your body is doing pretty impressive work behind the scenes.

Why do I get body aches when I'm ill?

When you get sick, your immune system goes into overdrive to fight off the infection. In fact, part of this response involves releasing antibodies, which is a natural response to infection or injury and is intended to help your body eliminate the virus, according to Loma Linda University Health. However, this response by the immune is what causes body aches in the first place.

At this point, your body also produces more white blood cells, which are a key part of our immune system — they help produce cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins produced in response to various stimuli, including infections, injuries, and inflammation, per the Cleveland Clinic. They play a crucial role in the body's immune response to infection and coordinate the communication and activity of different cells in the immune system. However, the increased cytokine production triggers an inflammatory response and causes muscle and joint pain, which eventually leads to those dreaded body aches.

How to manage body aches during an illness

It always helps first treating the underlying cause of your body aches. If the flu causes it, it's important not to push yourself too hard or overexert yourself. Ensure you're getting enough sleep and taking it easy during the day. Drinking plenty of fluids is also helpful. After all, your body loses a lot of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea. Consider sipping warm fluids, like herbal tea or broth, to help with the overall flu. Applying hot therapy can be effective in reducing body aches and may help relieve muscle tension, according to the experts at UCLA Health.

Lastly, it might also be a good idea to take over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen. This can help reduce fever and alleviate body aches. However, be sure to follow dosage instructions carefully and check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.