Musculoskeletal pain is any pain related to the bones and muscles and also includes pains related to tendons, ligaments and nerves that are related to these. It can be either acute or chronic.
So the conditions like myalgia, tendonitis, etc. all fall into the category of musculoskeletal pains. However, the commonest of such pains is lower back pain.
Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain
Most of the time musculoskeletal pain is caused by injuries to any part of the musculoskeletal system like bones, muscles, ligaments, etc. So anything from simple sprain or dislocation to car accidents can be the cause.
Overworking the muscles and bones may also cause musculoskeletal pain and it has been seen that almost one-third of all such pains in adults are generated by overuse. Sometimes poor posture is also responsible for such pain. If some person remains immobilized for quite some time, then he or she may also acquire musculoskeletal pain.
Types of Musculoskeletal Pains
Musculoskeletal pain can be classified according to the locations of occurrence. So the types of musculoskeletal pains are –
Bone pains are usually located very deep and can be both penetrating and dull in nature. Normally such pain results from injuries. So it is important to investigate the cause. Sometimes it can be a tumor or a fracture that causes such pain.
Muscle pains are not as severe as bone pains and can be caused by injury, infection, tumor or other conditions like lack of blood flow to the muscles or autoimmune reaction. Muscle cramps and spasms can also be classified into this type of pain.
Tendon and Ligament pain
These types of pains are normally caused by injuries including sprains. Such pain becomes severe when the injured area stretches, bends or moves.
This type of pain is often seen in the people suffering from arthritis or other conditions affecting the joints. The pain is usually aching and stiff. It can be both mild and severe and often increases with the movement of the affected joints. Sometimes swelling at the joints may also accompany such pain.
The nature of this pain is difficult to describe. In this condition the pain can be located in muscles, ligaments and tendons or in multiple locations at the same time. Often this condition is accompanied by some other symptoms.
This is a condition where the pain occurs due to compression of the nerves and usually results from overuse of the musculoskeletal system. Its various manifestations are carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome. The pain can be identified by a burning sensation traveling along the areas that are related to the nerve.
Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Pain
The symptoms of musculoskeletal pain depend on whether the pain is due to some injury or simple overuse of the system. It can also vary according to its chronic or acute nature. So a person may feel widespread or localized pain which can increase or become severe with movement.
Aching and stiffness are also experienced. The muscles may feel like being pulled or compressed and fatigue may set in. Such pain can cause sleep disturbances also. Twitching of the muscles and burning sensation in them can also be felt.
Diagnosis of Musculoskeletal Pain
When a person feels any or some of the symptoms of musculoskeletal pain, he or she may immediately approach a physician. Usually the doctor goes through a history of the person which may include investigation into the type of work done by the person. Also history of accidents is taken into account.
The duration of the pain helps to pinpoint whether it is of acute or chronic nature. Then the doctor tries to locate the pain and may suggest tests like x-ray, blood tests and if needed CT scans and MRI to mark out the exact location. MRI helps to find whether the problem exists in the muscle, tendon or ligament.
Treatment of Musculoskeletal Pain
The approach of treatment of musculoskeletal pain depends on the cause and aims at taking care of the cause rather than treating the pain only. Generally the treatment includes physical therapy together with other forms of treatment including pain relievers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids in severe cases. Relaxation, stretching and strengthening exercises are prescribed.
Therapeutic massage and chiropractic care are good ways to treat musculoskeletal pain. In case the joint is affected, splint is used for immobilization till the joint heals. Hot and cold compress is used also. If the pain is caused by overworking then lessening the load and resting the affected areas is suggested. In some cases the patient may require anti-inflammatory and anesthetic injections to cure or lessen the pain.