Everyone has experienced muscle pain at some point or another. If you live anything resembling an active lifestyle, you are at risk of feeling discomfort or tension in your muscles. As such, muscle pain is inevitable. That said, you shouldn’t ignore muscle pain; instead, you should try to better understand its genesis. Doing so will help you mitigate muscle pain in the future.

The medical term for muscle pain is myalgia, and there are a myriad of potential causes. The most common ones are overuse and injury. If you work in a job with demanding physical labor or if you tend to employ the same muscle groups every time you go to the gym, you are at special risk to developing muscle pain. Similarly, if you engage in sports or other strenuous athletic activities, you may tire your muscles from overuse or strain them through repetitive motion. On rare occasions, muscle pain can be symptomatic of a more serious ailment, such as influenza or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

The good news is that unless caused by a viral infection or chronic illness, muscle pain is generally easy to treat at home. The first thing you should do when you experience achy muscles is rest. Do not attempt to “power through” the injury. Try to use the hurting muscle as little as possible, and apply ice to reduce any inflammation. If pain persists, you can take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication like ibuprofen.

With a little care and rest, muscle pain will usually go away by itself. Still, myalgia is annoying, especially since there are steps you can take to prevent it. The most obvious preventative measure is to prepare your muscles whenever you know they will be put to use. This means stretching before exercising and incorporating warmups and cooldowns in all of your workouts. Even when not bracing for physical activity, you would do well to take care of your muscles. Always stay hydrated, and take advantage of a deep tissue massage when possible. Follow a healthy routine in your personal life by developing good sleeping and eating habits. The better your overall well-being, the less your muscles will hurt when you need them most.