Musculoskeletal pain affects the muscles, ligaments, nerves, tendons, and bones with acute or chronic pain. The pain could be acute like it is sudden and severe or long-lasting referred to as chronic pain. People with musculoskeletal pain experience thump on effects like fatigue, trouble sleeping or a feeling that your body has been overworked.

The location of the pain, its severity, and degree of its widespread depends on your condition or injury. Muscle pain, spasm or stiffness might be intense, mainly when you move. Bone pain could be more severe than muscle pain and often present as dull ache or throbbing. Tendon pain could vary depending on the use. The pain could be intense and makes it difficult to move the affected joint.


In most cases, musculoskeletal pain is the result of an injury which is of two types:

  • Acute –sudden injury that is caused by an accident or extreme use
  • Wear and tear – the injury develops due to chronic or long-term use

Muscle tissue is damaged due to wear and tear of daily activities. Trauma like accidents, sprains, falls, jerking movement, fractures, dislocations, and direct blows to the muscle in an area leads to musculoskeletal pain. Other reasons for musculoskeletal pain are postural strain, repetitive movements, overuse, and prolonged immobilization. Poor body mechanics or changes in posture causes spinal alignment issues and muscle shortening resulting in other muscles to be misused and causing pain.

Common types of musculoskeletal pain are:

  • Myalgia or muscle pain-It is caused from an injury, infection, cramp or spasm leading to loss of blood flow to the muscle, or tumor
  • Bone pain caused by an injury like fracture, infection, tumor, or hormone disorder
  • Tendon and ligament pain caused by a sprain, strain, or inflammation due to tendonitis or tenosynovitis
  • Joint pain due to arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia – pain in tendons, muscles, and joints occurring throughout the body
  • Nerve pain caused from compression, pressure on nerves due to carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and tarsal tunnel syndrome

Certain conditions increase the risk of musculoskeletal pain like arthritis causing chronic joint inflammation and pain, fibromyalgia causing pain and fatigue of muscles, ligaments and/or tendons and tunnel syndrome cause nerve compression or pinched nerves. The pain tends to move along the path of a nerve and may be accompanied with a burning feeling.


The symptoms vary from person to person. Some people feel the body is overworked along with muscles feeling pulled whereas; some feel pain in the entire body with twitching and burning sensation in muscles. Other symptoms include:

  • Aching, stiffness, soreness or swelling of muscles, ligaments and tendons
  • Burning sensations in the muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Spasm or twitching of Muscle
  • Pain worsening with movement
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • Cracking or popping sound in the joint
  • Trouble moving the affected area

Musculoskeletal pain might hinder everyday activities like walking or typing. You might develop a limited range of motion or difficulty completing the routine tasks. In case the pain is intense, it may disrupt sleeping which will leave you feeling fatigued.


Musculoskeletal pain can be caused due to various reasons thus the doctor would begin with your detailed medical history and your symptoms. Doctors would try to detect the exact location of pain in the affected area.

Various tests like blood test for identifying signs of inflammation and imaging tests (X-Ray, CT scan or MRI) to check for problems with bones, soft tissues like muscles, ligaments, and tendons or joint fluid test to check for crystals or infection would be recommended by the doctor.

Other imaging tests like ultrasonography, arthrography and bone scanning help in diagnosing certain medical conditions.


Treatment for musculoskeletal pain is decided on the basis of its cause. Various types of manual therapy, or mobilization, are required to treat people with spinal alignment problems. For acute and chronic pain different treatments like physical therapy, exercise programs, analgesics such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and injections in combination are recommended for maximum relief.

Some of the treatment options are:

  • Medication – These are prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation. Medicines like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol), opioids for moderate to severe pain and corticosteroid injections into the painful area. Along with pain medicines also prescribed to induce sleep include zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and ramelteon (Rozerem).
  • Hands-on-Therapy – This includes a combination of therapies like therapeutic massage, chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation or physical therapy. These therapies help in relieving pain and increasing range of movements that might exacerbate the injury. The physical therapy would include low-impact aerobic training, strengthening exercises, pain relief exercise and stretching exercise.
  • RICE (Rest, ice, compression and elevation) method – Ice or heat helps in reducing the inflammation.
  • TENS – Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, using a device to provide a low-voltage electric current to the skin on the area of pain. In a similar treatment, ultrasound involves sound waves being provided to the areas that hurt. Both techniques provide relief by blocking the pain messages going to your brain.
  • Acupuncture – It helps in decreasing the pain by helping the increase of chemicals that block pain known as endorphins. By stimulating the muscle they send a message to the central nervous system causing the release of endorphins along with other neurotransmitters that block the message of pain from being delivered up to the brain.
  • Splints – These help in supporting the joints while resting and it helps to ease pain and reduce inflammation. These are useful in the painful flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis or a phase of joint discomfort and may require resting for short spells during the day or night.
  • Osteopathic Manipulation Therapy (OMT) – Doctors use osteopathic medicine using the hands-on technique of gently moving joints as well as tissues to increase the range of motion to help relieve pain, and promote healing. Stretching, resistance, and gentle pressure are helpful to calm muscle spasms and induce healing of inflamed tissues.
  • Surgery – Surgery is typically required for cases that do not improve with more conservative treatments. Procedures may include: joint replacement, laminectomy, soft tissue and cartilage repair and arthroscopy.
    Lifestyle modification is important for injuries or problems related to overuse of muscle, ligaments or tendons. It is important to rest the affected area for quick healing.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) provides ways to manage the pain more effectively. A combination of the above treatment options help in relieving the symptoms. Topical analgesics also help relieve the pain from the affected area by reducing inflammation and stiffness.

  • Maintaining strong bones and joints is critical for preventing musculoskeletal pain.
  • Restrict or avoid repetitive movements
  • Improve to good posture
  • Practice correct lifting techniques
  • Stretching regularly


The pain can interfere with daily activities and functions. Musculoskeletal pain is very common among all ages. Musculoskeletal pain tends to improve with a combination of treatment. If musculoskeletal pain is caused by an underlying condition it is important to treat that condition to help relieve symptoms. Musculoskeletal pain includes pain felt anyplace in the bones, muscles, ligaments or tendons. Both the acute and the chronic phases of musculoskeletal pain constitute an important health problem.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from musculoskeletal pain, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.

Call us on 469-545-9983 to book an appointment with Dr. Rao Kamran Ali.

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