July 15, 2024
Home » Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke: Musculoskeletal System Effects

Do individuals with muscle pain know the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion and can find ways to stay cool?


As the temperature rises worldwide, many individuals are enjoying their time outside and getting more sun in their lives. However, rising temperatures also mean the rise of heat-related illnesses. The two most common heat-related illnesses are heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which can impact an individual’s musculoskeletal system and have different symptoms in terms of severity. Today’s article focuses on the differences between these two heat-related illnesses, how they affect the musculoskeletal system and treatments to stay cool while reducing muscle pain. We discuss with certified associated medical providers who consolidate our patients’ information to assess heat-related illnesses associated with muscle pain. We also inform and guide patients while asking their associated medical provider intricate questions to integrate treatments and ways to stay cool when temperatures rise and reduce muscle pain. Dr. Jimenez, D.C., includes this information as an academic service. Disclaimer.


Heat Exhaustion VS Heat Stroke

By understanding the differences between heat stroke and heat exhaustion is crucial. Do you often feel overheated after simple activities? Have you experienced muscle pain or cramps? Or do you struggle to cool down? These are all signs of heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illnesses often occur when the body cannot dissipate heat, leading to dysfunctional thermoregulation. (Gauer & Meyers, 2019) The two most common types are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. While they share similar causes, they differ significantly in terms of severity, symptoms, and treatment. (Prevention, 2022)



Heat exhaustion is a mild condition that often occurs when the human body loses excessive water and salt from profusely sweating. This causes the external temperatures to be more moderate when associated with intense physical activity. (Leiva & Church, 2024) Additionally, when a person is dealing with heat exhaustion, some of the symptoms that they will experience include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pale, cool, moist skin
  • Fast, weak pulse

Even though heat exhaustion is a mild heat-related condition, it can develop into severe heat-related conditions like heat stroke if not treated immediately. Heat stroke is a severe heat-related illness that is not only life-threatening but has two forms that can affect a person’s body temperature: classic and exertional. Classic heat stroke often affects elderly individuals who have chronic medical conditions, while exertional heat stroke affects healthy individuals who are doing strenuous physical activities. (Morris & Patel, 2024) Some of the symptoms associated with heat stroke include:

  • High body temperature (104°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry skin
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness


How Do Both Conditions Affect The Muscles?

Both heat-related illnesses can have a significant effect on the musculoskeletal system and cause muscle pain to not only the extremities but also the entire body system. The issue affects the musculoskeletal system and can lead to painful muscle cramps, involuntary muscle contractions, and muscle pain. Since muscle pain is a multi-factorial condition, heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and exhaustion can influence a person’s lifestyle and comorbid health factors. (Caneiro et al., 2021) When that happens, many individuals can seek treatments to stay cool from heat exhaustion and heat stroke and reduce muscle pain.


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Treatments For Staying Cool & Reduce Muscle Pain

While it is important to understand the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion due to the crucial timing and effective interventions, finding various treatments to reduce muscle pain and find ways to stay cool is important. Many individuals can wear technology to monitor the person’s physiological status actively and prevent injuries while providing early detection for heat-related illnesses. (Dolson et al., 2022) This can reduce the chances of muscle pain and help regulate body temperature. For individuals dealing with heat exhaustion, they can:

  • Move to a cooler environment
  • Be well-hydrated with water and electrolyte-rich drinks
  • Rest
  • Wear cool clothes to lower body temperature

For individuals dealing with heat stroke, they can:

  • Call emergency services immediately
  • Apply cool clothes or ice packs to the body
  • Monitor vital signs

Both treatments can ensure positive results in preventing life-threatening situations that can affect the musculoskeletal system.



Given the significant impact both heat stroke and heat exhaustion can have on the musculoskeletal system, it’s essential to take proactive measures. Proper hydration, cooling, and rest can help manage and alleviate muscle pain associated with these heat-related illnesses. By staying informed, maintaining hydration, and taking proactive steps to protect yourself from excessive heat, you can significantly reduce the chances of these heat-related illnesses affecting your outdoor activities.



Caneiro, J. P., Bunzli, S., & O’Sullivan, P. (2021). Beliefs about the body and pain: the critical role in musculoskeletal pain management. Braz J Phys Ther, 25(1), 17-29. doi.org/10.1016/j.bjpt.2020.06.003

Dolson, C. M., Harlow, E. R., Phelan, D. M., Gabbett, T. J., Gaal, B., McMellen, C., Geletka, B. J., Calcei, J. G., Voos, J. E., & Seshadri, D. R. (2022). Wearable Sensor Technology to Predict Core Body Temperature: A Systematic Review. Sensors (Basel), 22(19). doi.org/10.3390/s22197639

Gauer, R., & Meyers, B. K. (2019). Heat-Related Illnesses. American Family Physician, 99(8), 482-489. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30990296


Leiva, D. F., & Church, B. (2024). Heat Illness. In StatPearls. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31971756

Morris, A., & Patel, G. (2024). Heat Stroke. In StatPearls. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30725820

Prevention, C. f. D. C. a. (2022). Heat stress — heat related illness. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/heatrelillness.html#cramps


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The information herein on "Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke: Musculoskeletal System Effects" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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