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What is Viral Myositis?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Viral myositis is a rare complication of a viral infection that causes skeletal muscles to become inflamed, weakened, and painful. A person may have very isolated pain in a single muscle group, such as muscles around the hip or shoulder, or the condition can cause discomfort in many different places in the body at once. Symptoms tend to develop quickly, and an individual may find him or herself unable to even get out of bed in the later stages of viral myositis. Treatment typically consists of a course of antiviral drugs, fluids to prevent dehydration, steroids to reduce inflammation, and a long period of bed rest.

Muscle infection and inflammation are not common with most viral infections. Most cases of myositis are related to autoimmune conditions in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve and muscle fibers by mistake, acting as if they were dangerous pathogens. In the case of viral myositis, however, the immune system's attack is not misguided; viral pathogens really do pose a threat to the body. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the most common cause of myositis. Acute infections of coxsackievirus, influenza, and several other pathogens may lead to muscle inflammation as well.

A person who develops myositis is likely to experience pain, weakness, and swelling in one or more muscles. The quadriceps in the legs and lower back muscles are the most common sites. Inflammation can also affect the shoulders, arms, and neck. Myositis may be accompanied by more general symptoms of fever, fatigue, and full-body aches. In severe cases, the lungs, kidneys, or heart may be affected as well, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.

A doctor can diagnose viral myositis with a physical exam and blood tests. The physician asks about the patient's history and symptoms and examines different muscles to locate tender sites. Imaging tests such as ultrasounds and x-rays help to confirm swelling and inflammation in the muscles. Blood samples are screened for the presence of HIV or another virus that may be responsible for symptoms.

Treatment for myositis depends largely on the type of virus involved and the severity of symptoms. Patients with minor pain and low fevers are prescribed antiviral medications and instructed to get plenty of rest until symptoms resolve. If a person has significant discomfort, he or she may be hospitalized so that antivirals, fluids, and corticosteroids can be administered intravenously. HIV-positive individuals typically require more aggressive initial treatment and ongoing, lifelong medical therapy for their conditions. Most cases of viral myositis can be resolved or at least improved with careful treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon947062 — On Apr 23, 2014

I was involved briefly with a married helicopter pilot (claiming to be in the middle of a divorce) who had been complaining of extreme leg cramps that would make him wake up in the middle of the night. Not only this, but I noticed he had sores that bled, on various parts of his body. He attributed it to scratching himself, and other excuses.

He also said his wife was having an affair and I asked if they were ever checked for STDs, and he said no.

I hope it wasn't too late to get out of that big mistake, but even worse, I trusted that he initially told me only had sex with his ex wives and one "house maid" in Vietnam! Then the truth comes out and there are far more women than he initially mentioned. He may even be a serious sex addict, on top of passing around STDs and doesn't even care! He travels a lot.

As I said, he has been involved with many women, and I am afraid he has AIDS or some other STD and has been passing it on to many women, even his wife/ex wife, and he has never owned up to anything, especially after he made a quick comment in passing when I asked about it, and he said, "It's a muscle virus or something" and then changed the subject, very quickly and quite intentionally. He had those symptoms, plus frequently suffers from the leg cramps

That's what made me search, "Muscle virus", and I came up with this site.

We broke up and I haven't seen him for six months, but I am afraid he will continue passing STDs around. I started getting the same symptoms, but nothing showed up on any STD screening. No herpes test was done, so it could be that.

Does anyone know which STDs would cause Myositis?

By anon301586 — On Nov 05, 2012

I have just been diagnosed with Lupus scleraderma and myositis. The muscle pain is getting worse every day. Prednisone is a low dose until the muscle biopsy and chest and lung tests are done. I have some fluid around my heart and lungs. This all came about in five months' time. I am considering a wheelchair.

I don't know how to deal with this. It is the worst I have ever felt. The other tests will be done this week so maybe we can be more specific as to why the myositis came about. I feel like I am dying a slow death.

I do the best I can to adjust to my limitations but it is hard. God bless to all who need a healing.

By anon271844 — On May 28, 2012

I have been suffering with these symptoms for four weeks now. It started with sickness and diarrhea. I had that for two days with severe lower back pain which lasted for two weeks.

Then, nine days after the first sickness, the sickness and diarrhea started again lasting five days. I was put into the hospital overnight to get fluids into me as I got dehydrated. My calve and thigh muscles have been left very weak and sore to touch. I feel like they have been working out without the exercise. They feel very heavy, especially when I'm going up stairs. How long until I start feeling better?

By turquoise — On May 20, 2012

@ddljohn, @alisha-- You're both right. Viral myositis is rare because our muscles are actually pretty resistant to infections (thankfully). But if you compare adults with children, it's seen more in children. If I remember right from a recent lecture, something like ten to thirty percent of kids with the flu develop viral myositis. That's quite a lot! But it's more common with influenza B.

So parents need to pay attention and check for viral myositis symptoms when the kids are down with the flu. Pain and tenderness in the calves is definitely the major symptom and it starts a few days after flu symptoms start. For some reason, boys are more affected than girls, so that's something else to watch out for.

By discographer — On May 19, 2012

@ddljohn-- Your doctor must have spoken about very mild cases of viral myositis because it's actually a very serious condition. This is not at all like the body aches and pains associated with the flu. It's a lot more severe than that and it requires medical treatment or it can get a lot worse.

I had acute viral myositis also following a flu infection a couple of years ago. I had constant excruciating pain in my muscles in my legs and back. I also developed something called rhabdomyolysis. Basically the inflammation had started to breakdown the fibers in my muscles which were going into my bloodstream. If rhabdomyolysis goes on for too long it can damage the liver.

I was hospitalized for over one week because of viral myositis! They had me on pain relievers, antivirals and serum constantly. It was scary!

By ddljohn — On May 18, 2012

According to my daughter's pediatrician, viral myositis is not as rare as we think, but it is not well known by the public because it often passes on its own.

My daughter who is twelve years old developed viral myositis after getting the flu during flu season last year. She had the typical flu symptoms like fever and fatigue, along with tenderness in her calves.

We had her checked out and the pediatrician said she developed viral myositis but it wasn't serious. He just prescribed an anti-viral and lots of bed rest and fluids. She got better in about four days.

The doctor said that viral myositis has a higher chance of developing in children and the elderly. Thankfully, most of the time, it doesn't become very serious. Some people don't even realize that they have myositis symptoms since flu in general can cause body aches and pains.

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