Musculoskeletal pain encompasses a broad variety of pain in the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves. There are more than 200 musculoskeletal conditions, including osteoporosis, fractures and dislocations, arthritis, sciatica, scoliosis and gout. Other commonly used names for musculoskeletal pain include "repetitive motion injury”, "overuse injury” and "repetitive stress injury”.
Anybody can suffer from a musculoskeletal pain disorder, and it can affect every part of the body, including the back, hips, legs, wrists, neck and shoulders. Generally, the risk of developing musculoskeletal pain increases with age, as bone and joint strength declines as you get older, significantly impacting functional ability.
The pain can vary from mild to severe, and the longevity of a musculoskeletal disorder can differ too; it could be acute, i.e. a rapid onset with strong symptoms, or chronic, which is longer-lasting.
There are numerous causes of musculoskeletal pain, including muscle tissue damage from the wear and tear of daily activities, falls, car accidents, dislocations, repetitive movements, strenuous working conditions and poor posture.
Musculoskeletal pain can be sustained from a rapid, jerking movement during a sports game for example, or from a more protracted problem, such as exhibiting bad posture.
The most obvious symptom of musculoskeletal pain is discomfort; this could be acute pain, throbbing, aching, soreness or twinging.
Other indicators of musculoskeletal pain include weakness, joint noises such as a cracking shoulder, a disrupted sleeping pattern, fatigue, twitching muscles, a “burning” sensation in the muscles and limitations in mobility and dexterity.
If you are struggling with musculoskeletal pain and approach a medical professional for advice, you will be checked over for redness, swelling, muscle weakness, muscle atrophy and potential painful sites.
It is likely that your reflexes will be tested too in order to check for possible nerve damage. An X-ray or another type of scan is often helpful in pinpointing the problem.
Treatment for musculoskeletal pain depends on the severity of the symptoms, and methods of managing it can vary hugely.
If the musculoskeletal condition has been caused by an injury, resting is a crucial part of recovery with a gradual return to exercise guided by expert medical advice.
If your pain is contained around your feet, you could be assigned to the care of a podiatrist.
Physical therapy is often recommended to combat musculoskeletal pain and in turn restore motion and increase strength.
Acupuncture and acupressure has been found to alleviate chronic muscle pain, and anti-inflammatory medications such as an injection in or around the painful sites are often an effective form of treatment. For more life-limiting, painful musculoskeletal conditions, orthopaedic surgery such as a total joint replacement may be necessary.