10 common causes of body aches without a fever, and when to see a doctor

Erin Heger,Jason McKnight
·7 min read
stomach ache body ache sick flu
Body aches can still be a sign of the flu even if you don't have a fever. Milos Dimic/Getty Images
  • The most common cause of body aches without a fever include stress and sleep deprivation.

  • If you have body aches without a fever, it could still be a sign of a viral infection like the flu.

  • If your body aches are severe or last more than a few days, you should see your doctor.

  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

Body aches are feelings of pain or soreness all over your body. They are a common symptom of viral illnesses like the flu. If sickness is the cause of your body aches, you're likely to also have a fever, but in some circumstances, you may have body aches without a fever.

Here are the most common causes of body aches without a fever.

1. Stress

Stress can cause body aches, but the pain differs from illness-related aches, says Nate Favini, MD, the medical lead at Forward, a preventive primary care practice.

Body pain caused by stress typically manifests in the neck, shoulders, and back. Though it is possible for these pains to be felt in other parts of the body, like the legs, abdomen, or chest, Favini says. Illness-related body aches tend to be all-over and come on quickly, peaking in intensity over a short period of time - typically hours or days.

Stress causes your muscles to tense up. Once you relax, your muscles release, but ongoing or chronic stress can lead to longer bouts of muscle tension.

A 2015 study found a correlation between stress and the function of many bodily systems, including the musculoskeletal, nervous, respiratory, and endocrine systems. According to the study, stress can negatively impact these systems and manifest as physical pains including muscle aches and headaches.

Other symptoms of stress include:

If you think stress may be causing your body aches, try incorporating relaxation techniques into your day, like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.

2. Lack of sleep

Sleep is essential for cell regeneration - the body's process of replacing or restoring damaged cells and tissues. Not getting enough sleep can impact your body's ability to produce new cells, which can result in feelings of physical exhaustion and pain.

In addition to body aches, other symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

If you're struggling to sleep seven to eight hours per night, Favini recommends:

  • No screens at least an hour before bed. Blue light from laptops, phones, or televisions can disrupt the body's natural sleep cycle.

  • Establish a nighttime routine to prepare for sleep. Incorporate a relaxation element, like taking a warm bath or reading a book.

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This will reinforce your body's natural sleep cycle.

3. Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition that causes extreme fatigue and sleepiness that interfere with daily life. The condition affects an estimated one million Americans.

Aches and pains are common in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, though the severity of pain varies by individual, says Robert Berghorn, DPT, owner of Ascent Physical Therapy based in New York.

"Pain is supposed to act as a protective mechanism. However, in this case with chronic fatigue syndrome or any other chronic pain condition, it more acts like an uncontrolled wildfire," Berghorn says. "In this type of condition, there is a 'remapping' or changes in the way that the affected person interprets pain and activity where even the most simple things like opening a door can be really painful without any specific reason for the hand to hurt."

Other symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • Difficulties with concentration and memory

  • Headaches

  • Muscle weakness

  • A recurring sore throat

There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but many symptoms can be managed with medication or lifestyle changes. If you think you may be experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome, talk with your doctor about the best course of treatment for you.

4. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain and stiffness all over the body. The condition affects about four million adults in the US. Symptoms include:

  • Headaches

  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Problems with memory

  • Depression and anxiety

The condition can be managed with medication, stress management techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

5. Medications

Some medications can also cause body aches, Favini says. Some of the most common include:

If you're on a medication that you think is causing your body aches, talk with your doctor about your symptoms and what other options may be available to you.

6. Dehydration

Inadequate water intake reduces your body's ability to remove inflammatory chemicals from tissues, causing achiness and soreness, Berghorn says.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Exhaustion

  • Extreme thirst

  • Dark urine

One of the best ways to avoid dehydration is keeping a water bottle with you and drinking from it regularly, Berhorn says. If you do notice signs of dehydration, drinking a sports beverage with some sugar and electrolytes will help rehydrate you faster than just water.

7. Deficiencies

Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can also cause body aches, Berghorn says. Some of the most common ones include:

Our bodies need a certain level of vitamins and nutrients to function properly, and deficiencies can alter the way tissues interact with each other, causing aches and pains.

"Each muscle contraction requires the appropriate levels of calcium, potassium, and sodium," Berghorn says. "If one or more levels are low, it can result in spasms, reduced muscle contraction control, and muscle cramping."

8. Autoimmune disorder

An autoimmune disorder is when the body's immune system attacks itself. Some autoimmune disorders can cause body aches.

There are many different types of autoimmune disorders. Some of the most common ones that can cause body aches include:

There is no cure for autoimmune diseases, but medications may help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with these disorders.

9. Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia Burgdorfer. Symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • Body aches

  • Headache

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Rash

  • Fatigue

  • Chills

  • Fever

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Most people respond well to treatment and fully recover.

10. A viral infection

Both body aches and fever are common symptoms of viral infections, but it is possible to have a viral infection, like the flu, without having a fever, Favini says. Other viral infections may also cause body aches without a fever, like the common cold. Symptoms of a viral infection include:

A viral infection can last as long as a week or two, but over-the-counter medications, like Ibuprofen or Tylenol can help relieve many of the symptoms.

When to see your doctor

If your body aches are severe, lasting more than a few days, and impacting your daily life, you should seek medical attention, Favini says. A doctor can help you determine the exact cause of your symptoms and suggest proper treatment.

Insider's takeaway

Body aches are a common symptom of viral infections, like the flu, but they could have several other causes, including autoimmune diseases or a nutritional deficiency. If you are experiencing persistent body aches that impact your daily life, reach out to your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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