Musculoskeletal pain affects the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. It can be acute (having a rapid onset with severe symptoms) or chronic (long-lasting). Musculoskeletal pain can be localized in one area, or widespread.
Musculoskeletal pain has varying symptoms and causes. Some of the more common types of pain include:
Anyone can experience musculoskeletal pain. It is most often caused by an injury to the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves. This can be caused by jerking movements, car accidents, falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct blows to the muscle.
Musculoskeletal pain can also be caused by overuse. Pain from overuse affects 33% of adults. Lower back pain from overuse is the most common work-related diagnosis in Western society.
Poor posture or prolonged immobilization can also cause musculoskeletal pain.
Symptoms of musculoskeletal pain depend on whether the pain is caused by an injury or overuse and whether it is chronic or acute. The symptoms can also differ from person to person.
Common symptoms include:
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor for a thorough examination.
Your doctor will begin by conducting a thorough medical history. He or she will be looking for possible causes of your pain, such as workplace or sports injuries, and will also ask if the pain is ongoing or acute.
The doctor will then conduct a hands-on examination looking for the source of the pain. This may include palpating (touching) the affected area. This helps him or her locate the origin of the pain.
However, to determine the underlying cause of the pain, the doctor will often follow the exam with laboratory tests and X-rays. These may include:
Based on the findings from your examination and the results of these tests, your doctor should be able to diagnose the cause and type of your pain. This will help him or her to create a treatment plan for you.
Musculoskeletal pain is best treated by treating its cause. This will vary depending on whether you are experiencing bone, muscle, ligament, tendon, or joint pain, or some other kind of musculoskeletal pain.
For patients with fibromyalgia, medications to increase the body's levels of serotonin and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters that modulate sleep, pain, and immune system function) are often prescribed in low doses.
Pain relievers may be used during treatment for any type of musculoskeletal pain. Your doctor may recommend analgesics such as acetaminophen, NSAIDs, or if the pain is severe, opioids.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/04/2014