What Is Musculoskeletal Pain And How To Treat It?

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It’s normal to experience musculoskeletal pain once in a while. In certain cases, however, it may require some form of treatment. It is especially necessary when it becomes a widespread or long-term pain. Pain relief is also essential when suffering from fibromyalgia symptoms. Here is what you need to know about this type of pain.

Musculoskeletal Pain | Learn the Ways to Manage It

In this article:

  1. Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain
  2. The Different Kinds of Pain
  3. Symptoms of Muscle Pain
  4. Relieve Muscle Pain with These Treatments

Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal pain is a pain that occurs in the bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. It may be acute, which means the pain is sudden. In a lot of cases, it is chronic. It may be isolated such as neck pain or knee pain. The pain may also occur in different parts of the body as trigger points.

The degree of pain can also vary. Some are tolerable, while others are severe enough which can lead to a disability. Either way, there are many different causes of musculoskeletal pain:

  • Falls
  • Auto accidents
  • Jerking motions
  • Fractures
  • Sprains
  • Dislocations
  • Direct injuries to muscles

Musculoskeletal pain can also occur with repetitive motion and overuse. The condition can also develop from a lack of mobility as well as poor posture. When the spine is out of proper alignment, certain muscles may shorten, and other muscles may end up overworking.

People with thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, may also manifest muscle pain. It is even possible for the person to develop a thyroid dysfunction and disease of the joints simultaneously.

The Different Kinds of Pain

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Some of the types of musculoskeletal pain include:

  • Bone Pain — This type of pain usually presents as a dull and deep pain that seems to penetrate down in the bones. It usually happens due to a trauma or injury.
  • Muscular Pain — This pain will be less intense than the bone pain, though it can have a severe impact on daily activities. Muscle pain can be the result of an injury. It also occurs due to a lack of blood flow to the affected muscle, an infection, a tumor, or an autoimmune reaction. The dull pain in the muscles can also happen along with muscle spasms and cramping.
  • Ligament and Tendon Pain — This musculoskeletal pain occurs in specific areas and often becomes much more severe when the area is stretched or moved. It is often caused by injuries, including sprains.
  • Fibromyalgia — This is a condition primarily defined by chronic musculoskeletal pain. It is often difficult to describe for those experiencing it. For people with fibromyalgia, the pain is at multiple points throughout the body. It’s also not uncommon for the person to experience both pain and tenderness in the areas.
  • Painful Joints — Pain in the joints can be mild to severe. Aching and stiffness may also accompany it. When the joints develop inflammation, the pain can become severe. This is common among those with a thyroid problem.
  • Tunnel Syndromes — Tunnel syndromes refer to multiple conditions that cause pain due to a compressed nerve. These include carpal tunnel, tarsal tunnel, and cubital tunnel. These conditions occur due to repetitive motion and follow the pathway of the nerves, creating a burning sensation.

Symptoms of Muscle Pain

Musculoskeletal pain can manifest in many different ways. This can include feeling like the muscles are overworked or pulled. Some of the other symptoms associated with musculoskeletal pain include:

  • Muscle twitching and spasms
  • Burning and stinging in the muscles or joints
  • Pain in specific areas of the body or all over
  • Fatigue due to lack of sleep or physical exhaustion
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Pain that can be worse with movement or lack thereof
  • Stiffness and aching throughout the body

Musculoskeletal pain is often diagnosed after a doctor takes a patient’s medical history and performs a physical examination. The doctor may also order diagnostic tests such as X-rays if an injury occurred or blood tests to check for underlying conditions.

Relieve Muscle Pain with These Treatments

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Fortunately, there are different types of treatment available. It all depends on the location, severity, and underlying conditions. These options may be one or many of the following:

  • Immobilization of the affected area — This is ideal for people with tunnel syndromes. For example, a person may have to wear a wrist splint.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs — Anti-inflammatories can help reduce the swelling of the joints. Common options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). For severe cases of arthritis, doctors sometimes recommend injections into the affected area.
  • Heat and cold therapy, or a combination of both — Heat can help alleviate the pain felt in the muscles, and cold packs can reduce the swelling and pain in joints.
  • Osteopathic manipulation and chiropractic care — Since many causes of muscle pain can be the result of poor spinal or bone alignment, spinal manipulations can improve posture and help alleviate some of the pain.
  • Physical or occupational rehabilitation programs — When an injury happens that leads to musculoskeletal conditions, physical or occupational therapy will often be a part of the treatment plan. Those who experience chronic pain may have physical therapy as a part of their ongoing treatment.
  • Muscle strengthening and stretching exercises — This is often ideal for musculoskeletal pain as a result of an injury. It can also prevent or limit pain among those with more chronic conditions such as lower back pain.
  • Regular therapeutic massage — Massage can help relieve muscle tension and improve posture due to tight muscles.
  • Biofeedback and relaxation techniques — Such techniques as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and other biofeedback techniques can help improve lingering musculoskeletal pain and reduce its risk of recurrence.
  • Reduction or adjustment of workload, as well as rest — Occupations that put stress on the muscles or result in repeated injuries can increase a patient’s chance of experiencing chronic or repetitive musculoskeletal pain. Making ways to accommodate at work, changing work duties, or taking appropriate rest times when the pain occurs can lessen the damage and occurrence.
  • Anti-inflammatory diet — Contrary to popular belief, inflammation is a natural body response to the threat. When it becomes chronic, it leads to certain diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, and other conditions with pain as a symptom. One of the ways to manage it is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet like food rich in omega-3. If you cannot meet the recommendations, you can supplement.
  • Acupuncture — This treatment can focus or target pain in specific areas of the body. It has shown great promise in helping patients deal with the stress of musculoskeletal pain as well as reduce the amount of pain itself.
  • Prescription medications for related conditions — For those with fibromyalgia, doctors may prescribe medications that can help increase norepinephrine and serotonin in the body. It can improve sleep, pain, and immune system function.

What happens to your brain when you’re in pain? Watch this Ted-Ed video to know the answer:

Musculoskeletal pain can last for varying lengths of time and can often be debilitating when it occurs. Making small lifestyle changes at work and home, taking supplements, or undergoing therapy can go a long way.

How do you deal with musculoskeletal pain? Share your answers in the comments section below.

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