Pain is the most common symptom of most muscle, joint and spine conditions. Pain ranges from mild to severe and from acute and short-lived to chronic and may be local or widespread.
Musculoskeletal pain can be caused by disorders of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bursae, or a combination. Injuries are the most common cause of pain.
Bone pain is usually deep, penetrating, or dull. It commonly results from injury.
Muscle pain (known as myalgia) is often less intense than bone pain but can be very unpleasant. For example, a muscle spasms or cramp in the calf is an intense pain. Pain can occur when a muscle is affected by an injury, loss of blood flow to the muscle, infection, or a tumor.
Joint pain (called arthralgia) may or may not be related to join inflammation (called arthritis). Arthritis may cause swelling as well as pain. Pain resulting from arthritis is typically worse when the joint is moved but usually is present even when the joint is not being moved. Sometimes pain originating in structures near the joint, such as ligaments, tendons, and bursae, seems to be coming from the joint.
In trying to establish the cause of joint pain, doctors first evaluate your joints. How many and which joints are involved? Is the central part of the spine involved? Is the join pain acute or chronic? What factors relieve or worsen the pain? Is there other symptoms affecting other organs?
Determining these factors gives important clues to what disorder is likely causing the pain. Doctors do a physical examination to determine these factors and detect other important findings that could help determine the cause of the pain.
Pain is usually best relieved by treating its cause. Once evaluated, the doctor might recommend applying cold or heat or immobilizing the joint may help relieve musculoskeletal pain. Chiropractic care can also help correct the cause of the pain.