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Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal Pain


What Could Be Causing My
Musculoskeletal Pain?

Muscle, bone, ligament, tendon, and nerve pain are all examples of musculoskeletal pain. You may just feel discomfort in one part of your body, such as your back. If you have a widespread ailment like fibromyalgia, it can affect your entire body.

The discomfort might range from minor to severe, interfering with your daily activities. Acute pain is characterised by quick onset and brief duration. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for more than three to six months.

Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Pain

The intensity of the pain varies depending on where musculoskeletal pain occurs.

The ache in your bones can be subtle, acute, piercing, or deep. It usually causes more discomfort than muscle or tendon pain.

If a cramp or forceful muscle contraction, often known as a charley horse, causes muscle discomfort, it can be severe and short-lived. Uncomfortably twitch or contract the muscle.

If tendon damage has occurred, the discomfort may be severe. When you move or stretch the afflicted tendon, it usually gets worse before getting better.

Aching is how joint pain feels. Stiffness and swelling are possible side effects.

Fibromyalgia generates a variety of sore places all throughout the body.

Tingling, pins & needles, or burning are common symptoms of nerve compression. Other symptoms, which vary depending on the origin of the pain, include:

  • Stiffness
  • Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Cracking or popping sound in the joint
  • Trouble moving the affected area
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle spasms or twitches
  • Bruising

Diagnosis of Musculoskeletal Pain

Because musculoskeletal pain can have a range of reasons, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and obtain a full medical history. Expect to be asked questions such as these:

  • When did the discomfort begin?
  • What were you doing at the time (exercising or sports, for example)?
  • What does it feel like if it stabs, burns, aches, or tingles?
  • What hurts the most?
  • What other symptoms do you have (e.g., insomnia, fatigue)?
  • What causes it to deteriorate or improve?

To pinpoint the exact location of your pain, your doctor may press on or move the affected area into various positions. A variety of tests can be used to determine the source of your discomfort, including:

  • X-rays or CT scans to discover abnormalities with the bones Blood tests to look for symptoms of inflammation that could indicate arthritis
  • MRI scans are used to look for disorders with soft tissues like muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  • Gouty joint fluid tests to detect infections or gouty crystals

Musculoskeletal pain causes

Musculoskeletal disorders

These conditions impact the bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments directly. An injury to the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, or ligaments is the most prevalent cause of musculoskeletal discomfort. Accidents and falls, and sports injuries are just a few of the events that can cause pain.

There are around 150 distinct musculoskeletal ailments. The following are a few of the most common:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis are examples of arthritis and autoimmune disorders.
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fractures and dislocations are common injuries.
  • Scoliosis is a condition that affects the structure of the bones and joints.

Non-musculoskeletal contributors to pain

Non-musculoskeletal illnesses that cause discomfort in the bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments include the following:

  • Excessive use at work or when participating in sports
  • Bad posture
  • Prolonged bed rest, such as after surgery or during illness
  • Certain tumours and malignancies, such as tenosynovial giant cell tumours (TGCTs) and metastatic prostate cancer spread to the bone, can cause infections of the bones, muscles, or other soft tissues.

Even when the pain originates in another organ system, it can feel like it’s coming from the musculoskeletal system. A heart attack, for example, might cause discomfort to spread down the arm. This is known as referred pain, and it can be caused by:

  • Gallbladder
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen


Types of Musculoskeletal Pain

Low back pain is the most prevalent type of musculoskeletal pain. However, there are other different forms for a variety of possible reasons.

Muscle pain (myalgia)

Pain or aches in the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones, and organs are known as myalgia. Injury, infection, cramp or spasm, loss of blood flow to the muscle, disease, certain drugs, or tumour are all possible causes. Ligaments, tendons, soft tissues, organs, and bones are among the body parts that can be affected.

Bone pain

Bone pain is frequently caused by a fracture or injury. An infection, osteoporosis, tumour spread into a bone, or another systemic condition can all cause it. Tenderness or soreness at the bone site is both signs.

Tendon and ligament pain

A sprain, strain, or inflammation caused by tendinitis or tenosynovitis causes tendon and ligament pain. Ligaments bind things together. Tendons connect muscles to bone. Overuse or an unusual or rapid movement that causes ligaments or tendons to stretch or rupture might cause pain in these locations.

Joint pain

Swelling, stiffness, and a limited range of motion can accompany joint pain. These are all arthritic symptoms. People with arthritis might experience persistent pain, which can make daily activities difficult.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects tendons, muscles, and joints all over the body. This illness may begin with localised neck and shoulder pain before spreading. In addition to musculoskeletal pain, people with fibromyalgia frequently have other types of discomfort, such as migraine attacks.

Nerve compression pain

Conditions that impose pressure on nerves, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and tarsal tunnel syndrome, can cause nerve compression discomfort. Repetitive use, leaning on elbows, or other illnesses like arthritis or gout can also cause pressure.

Back pain

Back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury or sickness. Back pain can be caused by muscle strain, disc fracture, or inflammation. Osteoarthritis or other degenerative disorders, infection, or spinal lesions can all cause it.

Chest pain

Angina, which is caused by the heart muscle not receiving enough oxygen, can cause chest pain. Chest pain can also be caused by digestive difficulties such as acid reflux, inflammation, blood clots in the lungs, and panic attacks. These, however, have nothing to do with musculoskeletal discomfort.

One type of musculoskeletal pain in the chest is costochondritis or inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage.

Musculoskeletal Pain Treatment

Musculoskeletal pain is commonly treated by primary care physicians. Your care may also include physical therapists, rheumatologists, osteopaths, orthopaedic experts, and other specialists.

The treatment you receive is determined by the source of your pain. Treatment options are divided into various categories. Before beginning any treatment, see your doctor.


  • Paracetamol
  • (NSAIDs) Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are examples of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Injections of Corticosteroids into the painful area (depending on the area)
  • Opiates (only for more severe pain because of the risk of dependency and side effects)

Physical Therapy

Complementary therapies

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal, vitamin, and mineral supplements

Devices and aids

  • Orthotics
  • Braces
  • Taping
  • Lumbar supports


Surgery is usually reserved for cases that have failed to respond to conventional therapies. Examples of procedures include:

  • Replacement of joints
  • Laminectomy
  • Repair of soft tissue and cartilage
  • Arthroscopy

Changes in lifestyle

Your doctor may advise resting the damaged body part until it recovers if you have an injury or a disease caused by overuse. Stretching and other activities under the supervision of a physical therapist may be beneficial if you have arthritis or other muscle problems.

Both ice and heat are effective pain relievers. Ice reduces swelling and pain soon following an injury. A few days after the first injury, heat relieves stiffness.

It can be beneficial to talk to someone about your pain. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) teaches you how to better control your pain.


Musculoskeletal pain can come from a variety of places, some of which aren’t even in the muscles, bones, or joints. If you have significant discomfort that doesn’t go away after a few weeks, see your doctor for a checkup to determine the source.