Musculoskeletal Pain

Last updated date: 28-Apr-2023

Originally Written in English

Musculoskeletal Pain


Musculoskeletal pain is a major clinical problem that requires more study into peripheral and central neurobiological systems to enhance knowledge, diagnosis, and therapy. Peripheral and central sensitization are essential factors in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain.

A musculoskeletal rehabilitation (rehab) program is a doctor-supervised program for persons who have impairments or disabilities as a result of disease, diseases, or damage to their muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bones. Musculoskeletal rehab programs can frequently improve a person's ability to function, reduce symptoms, and improve overall well-being. Musculoskeletal pain is one of the disorders that may benefit from musculoskeletal rehab.

Musculoskeletal pain can have a variety of reasons. The wear and strain of regular activities can cause muscle tissue injury. Jerking movements, car accidents, falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct hits to the muscle can all result in musculoskeletal discomfort.

Postural tension, repeated motions, overuse, and extended immobility are all causes of discomfort. Changes in posture or poor body mechanics can cause spinal alignment issues and muscle shortening, causing other muscles to be abused and painful. 


What is Musculoskeletal Pain?

Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal pain is pain that affects:

  • Bones
  • Joints
  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Tendons

Musculoskeletal pain can be acute, meaning it is sudden and severe. Or the pain can be chronic (long-lasting). You may have localized pain (in one area of your body), or it may affect your entire body.


Types of Musculoskeletal Pain

Types of Musculoskeletal Pain

The most common types of musculoskeletal pain include:

Bone pain: Bone pain is caused by traumas such as bone fractures or other musculoskeletal injuries. A tumor may occasionally cause bone pain.

Joint pain: Joint discomfort is frequently accompanied by stiffness and inflammation. Many patients find that joint pain improves with rest and increases with exercise.

Muscle pain: Muscular pain can be caused by muscle spasms, cramps, or injury. Muscle discomfort can also be caused by infections or tumors.

Tendon and ligament pain: Ligaments and tendons are tough tissue bands that link your joints and bones. Tendon and ligament discomfort can result from sprains, strains, and overuse injuries. 


Musculoskeletal Pain Causes

Musculoskeletal Pain Causes

Musculoskeletal pain can be caused by problems with the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bursae, or a combination of these structures. The most prevalent cause of pain is injury.

Bone pain is typically intense, piercing, or mild. It is frequently caused by an injury. Other less common reasons of bone pain include osteomyelitis, hormone imbalances, and malignancies.

Muscle pain (myalgia) is frequently less severe than bone pain but can be quite uncomfortable. A charley horse is an extreme pain caused by a muscular spasm or cramp (a continuous painful muscle contraction) in the calf. Pain can occur when a muscle is injured, loses blood supply to the muscle, becomes infected, or develops a tumor. Polymyalgia rheumatica is a chronic pain and stiffness disorder that affects the neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, and hips.

Tendon and ligament pain is frequently milder than bone discomfort. It is frequently reported as "sharp," becomes worse when the injured tendon or ligament is stretched or manipulated, and is typically eased by rest. Tendinitis, tenosynovitis, lateral epicondylitis or medial epicondylitis, and tendon injuries are all common causes of tendon discomfort. Injury is the most prevalent cause of ligament discomfort (sprains).

Trauma, overuse, gout, or infection can all cause bursae discomfort. Bursae are tiny fluid-filled sacs that act as a cushion surrounding joints. Typically, discomfort is exacerbated by bursa-related movement and reduced by rest. The bursa in issue may enlarge.

Joint pain (also known as arthralgia) may or may not be associated with joint inflammation (called arthritis). Arthritis can induce both discomfort and edema. Inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, infectious arthritis, gout and related disorders, autoimmune disorders (such as systemic lupus erythematosus) and vasculitic disorders (such as immunoglobulin A–associated vasculitis), osteonecrosis, and injuries affecting the part of a bone inside a joint can all cause arthritis.

Arthritic pain can be acute (induced by infections, traumas, or gout) or chronic (chronic, for example, when caused by rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis). Arthritic pain is usually greater when the joint is moved, although it is normally present even when the joint is not moved. Sometimes discomfort from tissues around the joint, such as ligaments, tendons, and bursae, appears to be coming from the joint.

Fibromyalgia can cause discomfort in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The pain is frequently felt or produces tenderness in multiple locations and is difficult to characterize properly, although it is usually not caused by the joints. Other symptoms, including as tiredness and poor sleep, are common among those who are affected.

Some musculoskeletal problems generate pain by compressing nerves. These disorders include tunnel syndromes (for example, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and tarsal tunnel syndrome). The pain tends to radiate along the route supplied by the nerve and may be scorching. It is frequently accompanied by tingling, numbness, or both.

Pain that appears to be musculoskeletal is sometimes caused by a problem in another organ system. For example, shoulder discomfort might be caused by a problem with the lungs, spleen, or gallbladder. Back discomfort can be caused by a kidney stone, an abdominal aortic aneurysm, pancreas inflammation, or, in women, pelvic diseases. A heart attack may induce arm discomfort (myocardial infarction). 


Evaluation of Musculoskeletal Pain

Evaluation of Musculoskeletal Pain

In trying to establish the cause of joint pain, doctors first determine

  • How many joints are involved, and which ones?
  • Whether or whether the core skeleton (such as the spine and pelvis) is involved?
  • Whether the discomfort in the joints is acute or persistent?
  • What variables alleviate or aggravate pain?
  • Whether there are any other symptoms affecting other organs (for example, rash, fever, or dry eyes)?

Determining these variables provides crucial information about the disease that is most likely causing the discomfort. A physical examination is performed by doctors to help evaluate these variables and to detect other critical findings that may assist pinpoint the origin of the discomfort.

The type of pain can sometimes indicate where the problem began. Pain that intensifies with movement, for example, indicates a musculoskeletal issue. Pain accompanied by muscular spasm indicates that the pain is caused by a muscle issue (sometimes a chronic spinal cord injury). When the doctor touches the region (for example, a joint, ligament, or bursa) or passively moves a joint, the location of swelling or tenderness frequently suggests the cause of discomfort. However, these pain features do not always identify the source or cause of the pain.

As a result, clinicians often base a specific diagnosis on the existence of other symptoms, physical examination findings, and, in certain cases, the results of laboratory testing and x-rays. Lyme disease, for example, frequently produces joint pain, swelling, and a bull's eye-like rash, and blood tests reveal antibodies to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Gout is characterized by a rapid onset of pain, edema, and redness in the big toe joint or adjacent joints. Uric acid crystals are commonly detected in joint fluid tests.


  • Laboratory test and imaging:

Blood tests are only relevant in supporting a doctor's diagnosis after an examination. A blood test alone does not make or confirm a diagnosis. Rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibodies are two examples of blood tests used to assist detect prevalent causes of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Typically, such testing are advised only if symptoms point to a specific disorder.

X-rays are typically used to imaging bones; however, they do not show muscles, tendons, or ligaments. X-rays are often done when a doctor suspects a fracture or, less frequently, a bone tumor or infection, or to search for changes that prove a person has a certain kind of arthritis (for example, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis).

MRI, as opposed to standard x-rays, may detect abnormalities in soft tissues such as muscles, bursae, ligaments, and tendons. Thus, an MRI may be employed when a doctor suspects injury to a major ligament or tendon, or damage to critical structures inside a joint; nevertheless, in the evaluation of many painful disorders, it may not be superior than a routine x-ray. MRI can detect fractures that are not visible on x-rays.

CT is more sensitive than x-rays and is frequently used to acquire more information about a fracture or bone issue discovered using conventional x-rays. If an MRI is not possible or is not available, a CT scan can be used.

Ultrasonography, arthrography (an x-ray treatment in which a radiopaque dye is injected into a joint space to define structures such as ligaments inside the joint), and bone scanning are other imaging examinations. These tests may aid doctors in the diagnosis of certain illnesses. Doctors may take a sample of bone, joint lining (synovium), or other tissues to examine under a microscope (biopsy).

If the joint is inflamed, joint fluid testing is frequently performed. Doctors remove joint fluid by first disinfecting the region with an antiseptic solution and then numbing the skin with an anesthetic. The joint fluid is then extracted using a needle put into the joint (a procedure called joint aspiration or arthrocentesis). This technique is rather painless. The fluid is often screened for bacteria that might cause illness and inspected under a microscope for crystals that cause gout and other associated conditions. 


How Rehabilitation Can Treat Musculoskeletal Pain?

Rehabilitation Treat

Multiple modalities are frequently used to treat musculoskeletal pain. They are notably helpful in relieving the patient's acute low back pain (e.g., a severe, excruciating episode of low back pain). Passive techniques are commonly used by physical therapists and chiropractors.

Passive Physical Therapy:

Several mechanical procedures and physical agents are used by therapists to treat pain, including the application of ice/heat packs, ultrasound, and electrical muscle stimulation. Massage and mobilization are two manual treatment modalities in addition to exercise.

  • Heat and Cold Therapy:

Heat and/or cold are easily accessible and the most typically employed modality. Each form of treatment aids in the reduction of muscular spasms and inflammation.

Some people benefit more from heat therapy, such as heat packs, while others benefit more from cold therapy, such as ice massage. The two can also be switched. They are often administered for 10-20 minutes every two hours and are more effective early on (the first few days) in the course of a pain episode.

  • Iontophoresis:

Iontophoresis is a technique for administering steroids through the skin. The steroid is given to the skin, followed by an electrical current that causes it to travel beneath the skin. The steroids then have an anti-inflammatory impact in the broad region of discomfort. This method is very useful in treating acute pain episodes.

  • TENS Units for Electrotherapy:

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) device modulates the experience of low back pain by overriding the unpleasant impulses transmitted to the brain. A trial of electrotherapy with the TENS unit is normally performed initially, and if the patient finds significant pain alleviation, a TENS unit may be used at home for long-term low back pain management.

TENS therapy typically employs electrodes on tiny, adhesive pads connected to a battery-powered device through cables. The electrodes are placed over the painful location, and current is sent through them, activating the sensory nerves and producing a tingling sensation that lessens the experience of pain.

A hand-held controller allows the individual to select from a range of options, such as high frequency or low frequency current as well as complex patterns of stimulation.

  • Ultrasound:

Ultrasound is a type of deep heating that uses sound waves to penetrate the skin and soft tissues. Ultrasound is especially effective in relieving acute pain and may improve tissue healing.


Active physical therapy:

Active approaches like exercise treatment, which stretch and strengthen the flexibility of painful muscles, can also help reduce pain.

  • The McKenzie approach:

to back exercises was developed specifically to centralize and relieve back related pain symptoms

  • Dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises:

 control pain by reducing motion at the injury location. This technique involves training muscles to automatically provide protective support during activity.

  • Individualized Exercise Program:

Physical therapy is assessing a person's mobility, physical capabilities, body type, and activity level in order to prescribe exercise and other physical techniques to help improve function. A well-trained physical therapist will create a customized exercise program based on studies of the most effective spine exercises for specific diseases and diagnoses. The timing, precise exercises, and quantity of practice with the physical therapist of the exercise program will vary based on the ailment and the individual's demands.

Creating the correct exercise for the individual may include trial and error, as well as analyzing the person's reaction to the exercise and changing the activity accordingly.

  • Proper Exercise Technique:

The correct exercise method enables the patient to isolate the appropriate muscle/muscle group, increasing the efficacy of an exercise. A physical therapist will teach a patient how to complete each activity in the tailored exercise program. Physical therapists are always striving to enhance their workout routines, learning new ones as they emerge and evaluating new fads. The therapist will also go through posture and mobility exercises with the patient, recommending changes that will give more spine protection.

  • Water therapy exercise programs: 

It consists of a number of treatments and exercises performed in a pool that may be especially intended to relieve low back or neck discomfort. These exercises also condition and strengthen muscles, which can help prevent future episodes of back discomfort.

Water therapy exercise is especially beneficial when a land-based exercise program is not practicable owing to pain severity, bone density loss, handicap, or other circumstances. As a result, water therapy is a varied activity that is especially beneficial for persons suffering from diseases such as:

  1. Osteoarthritis.
  2. Advanced osteoporosis (with susceptibility to and/or pain from fracture).
  3. Muscle strain or tears.

Aside from such conditions, water therapy is widely prescribed as a type of exercise therapy for those with diabetes and high blood pressure. With water exercise, both problems can improve and become more tolerable.

All of these problems can make standing or exercising on a hard or cushioned surface uncomfortable or painful. Water creates a much calmer and more friendly environment.

Water therapy provides many of the same advantages as land-based fitness programs, such as the formulation of a treatment plan that is specifically suited to the person. Water treatment is also known as pool therapy, hydrotherapy, and aquatic therapy.


Benefits of Exercising in Water among other Therapies

Hydrostatic pressure

Water's physical properties make it a particularly attractive medium for exercising to relieve back pain and other musculoskeletal issues. The following are some of the most essential qualities of water that make exercise easier:

  1. Buoyancy: Water counteracts gravity and helps to support the patient's weight in a regulated manner while the patient is immersed. This can help with the development of better balance and strength. Water's buoyancy also allows for a wider range of postures due to the near lack of gravitational forces, which is especially useful for workouts that entail elevating the legs, the heaviest limb of the body for most individuals.
  2. Viscosity: Water's viscosity provides resistance through moderate friction, allowing for the strengthening and conditioning of an injury while lowering the danger of further harm due to loss of balance.
  3. Hydrostatic pressure: Hydrostatic pressure has tremendous effects that improve heart and lung function, making aquatic exercise an excellent approach to maintain and strengthen heart and lung function. This pressure impact also helps to improve blood flow to the muscles.



Musculoskeletal Pain

Pain in the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves is referred to as musculoskeletal pain. This pain might be felt in only one part of the body, such as your back. If you have a widespread condition like fibromyalgia, you may experience it all over your body.

The pain might be slight or severe enough to interfere with your daily life. Acute pain is defined as pain that begins suddenly and lasts for a brief period of time. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for more than three to six months.

These conditions have a direct impact on the bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments. An injury to the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, or ligaments is the most prevalent cause of musculoskeletal discomfort. Falls, sports injuries, and vehicle accidents are just a few examples of what might cause pain.

More than 150 different musculoskeletal disorders exist. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Arthritis and autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Injuries such as fractures and dislocations.
  • Problems with the structure of bones or joints, such as scoliosis.

Musculoskeletal pain is commonly treated by primary care physicians. Your care may also include physical therapists, rheumatologists, osteopaths, orthopedic experts, and other specialists.

The therapy you receive is determined on the source of your pain. Options for treatment There are various sorts of trusted sources. Always with your doctor before beginning any treatment.