Don’t ignore bone pain. Some causes are easy to understand — like breaking a bone in a car accident. But many serious causes of bone pain aren’t as obvious. Visit a healthcare provider as soon as you notice pain that gets worse or doesn’t go away in a few days.
Bone pain is any pain or discomfort you feel in your bones or joints. It can be caused by many injuries and health conditions. You might see it referred to as bone tenderness.
Some causes of bone pain will be easier to feel or see than others. If you have a bone fracture after trauma, like a car accident or fall, you’ll know exactly why your bone hurts. But most causes of bone pain aren’t obvious. For example, some types of cancer that start in (or spread to) your bones cause bone pain. Traumas and injuries can also cause bone pain.
Visit a healthcare provider as soon as you notice bone pain. It’s important to get the cause of the pain diagnosed as soon as possible. No matter what’s causing it, don’t ignore new pain in your bones, especially if it’s getting worse or doesn’t go away in a few days.
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Bone pain usually feels dull and achy — like the pain is coming from deep inside your body. The skin near the affected area will probably feel tender to any touch. It might also hurt when you move or use that part of your body. You’ll probably be able to pinpoint exactly where your bone hurts. The pain might spread out (radiate), but there’s usually one spot that feels the most painful or tender.
If you have a bone fracture or experienced trauma, the pain may be sharper, more intense and obviously coming from the location of your injury.
There’s no correct way to feel pain. Tell a healthcare provider everything you’re feeling, including:
Anything that damages your bones or the tissue around them can cause bone pain. The most common causes of bone pain include:
Traumas and injuries that cause bone pain:
Health conditions that cause bone pain:
Benign (noncancerous) bone tumors that cause bone pain:
Cancer types that cause bone pain:
A healthcare provider will diagnose and treat the cause of the bone pain. They’ll tell you which treatments you need and how long it’ll take to recover.
Your provider will diagnose what’s affecting your bone using imaging tests, which might include:
You might need a bone density test (sometimes called a DEXA scan or DXA scan) to check your bone density. Conditions like osteoporosis weaken your bones by causing them to become thin and brittle. A bone density scan checks how strong your bones are. It’s the best way to catch osteoporosis before it weakens your bones enough to cause fractures.
Visit a healthcare provider as soon as you notice new pain in or near one of your bones. Because so many conditions can cause pain in your bones, it’s important to get the source of the pain diagnosed right away. Don’t ignore bone pain or assume it will go away on its own.
Women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more likely to develop osteoporosis and osteopenia. Tell your provider if other people in your family have a history of osteoporosis. They’ll tell you how often you need osteoporosis screenings.
Go to the emergency room if you’ve experienced trauma or have any of the following symptoms:
Because you can’t see your bones or muscles, it’s hard to know what’s causing pain inside your body. Muscle pain is much more common than bone pain. The most common causes of muscle pain include:
Both muscle pain and bone pain can hurt a lot. If you have bone pain, it’ll usually feel more intense or severe than muscle pain — like the pain is coming from deeper inside your body.
Bone pain usually feels like it’s coming from a specific spot inside your body that you can point to (it’s more localized). Muscle pain typically feels less localized and more spread out along the length of your sore or injured muscle.
Bone pain usually lasts longer than muscle pain. If you’re sore after helping a friend move or the day after a big workout, you’re probably experiencing muscle pain.
Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing pain that doesn’t get better in a few days.
Some children experience growing pains. The pain typically occurs in your child’s shins, calves, thighs or behind their knees. Growing pains usually occur in kids younger than 12. Although these pains are called growing pains, there’s no evidence that growth causes the pain. Experts aren’t sure what causes growing pains.
Visit a healthcare provider if your child is experiencing new pain, especially if it’s intense enough to wake them up at night.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Lots of injuries and health conditions cause bone pain. Not every cause of bone pain is as sudden as a car accident. But even silent, less obvious conditions that damage your bones enough to cause pain are serious. Don’t ignore pain in your bones. Visit a healthcare provider as soon as you notice it.
Your healthcare provider will help you understand what’s going on inside your body. They’ll give you a treatment and recovery plan that fits your unique needs.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/03/2023.
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