Musculoskeletal pain afflicts millions of people. It often comes in the form of a related musculoskeletal disorder or MSD. According to the World Health Organization, between 20 and 33% of people in the world have a musculoskeletal disorder. In America, this amounts to one in two adults. These disorders can reduce a person's quality of life, but successful treatments and management techniques do exist.

Defining Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal pain causes severe, localized, or widespread aches in the muscles, joints, and tendons. Some people compare the pain to a pulled or strained muscle. Since everyone experiences this pain differently, there is no one definition that describes musculoskeletal pain.

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Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain

Injury is the most common cause of musculoskeletal pain — anything as straightforward as a sprained ankle or as severe as muscular contusions caused by a car accident or a fall. Chronic diseases can also cause musculoskeletal pain to develop, alone or along with other symptoms. Genetics may cause some of these MSDs to develop, although the deeper causes aren't entirely known.

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Treating Musculoskeletal Pain

Before attempting to treat musculoskeletal disorders, doctors attempt to identify the cause of the pain. For sports injuries or injuries caused by accidents, they may place a cast or splint and prescribe medication to manage the pain until the body can heal itself. For more severe pain caused by chronic disorders, the doctor may prescribe injectable medications, like corticosteroids, that reduce inflammation. They may also refer patients to physical or occupational therapists or chiropractors to manage the pain and maintain mobility in the long-term.

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Preventing Musculoskeletal Pain

Some forms of chronic musculoskeletal pain are genetic or triggered by an outside event, like a viral infection. However, actions like regular stretching and abstaining from risky activities can help prevent acute forms of musculoskeletal pain. People who are at a high risk of injury due to their line of work should use protective equipment and practice techniques that reduce their risk of sprains, fractures, and other injuries. Some people also benefit from staying physically fit, maintaining a healthy body weight, and strength training to boost muscle strength and flexibility.

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Musculoskeletal Pain and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a form of musculoskeletal pain that results from a compressed or pinched nerve in the wrist. Some forms of carpal tunnel syndrome run in families, while others are caused by repetitive or extreme wrist motions. This form of musculoskeletal pain is usually treated with anti-inflammatory medications and splints, but surgery is an option in severe cases.

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Musculoskeletal Pain and Arthritis

Arthritis is itself a group of musculoskeletal disorders characterized by swelling and tenderness in the joints. It can affect the joints in the extremities, including the knees, hands, and wrists. While arthritis can’t be entirely prevented, people can reduce their risk or the eventual severity by staying active and eating a healthy diet. For people who already have arthritis, these habits, along with maintaining healthy body weight, can help manage the condition.

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Musculoskeletal Pain and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is another MSD that involves both nerve and muscle pain. Along with persistent, dull pain, people with fibromyalgia often experience fatigue and brain fog. While there isn’t a specific catalyst for fibromyalgia, some people begin to experience symptoms after a psychologically or physically traumatizing event. Although fibromyalgia can’t be cured, it can be managed with medication and exercise.

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Musculoskeletal Pain and Depression

Some studies have explored the link between musculoskeletal pain and depression. The two conditions often coexist and scientists have determined that pain may promote depression. One set of findings concluded that musculoskeletal pain may serve as a predictor of depression. Pain self-management programs, when conducted with antidepressant therapy, have shown promise in reducing the severity of pain and depression. This research may help improve mental health treatments for people with MSDs.

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Musculoskeletal Pain and Lupus

People with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus, often experience musculoskeletal pain in connection with their disease, specifically joint pain, arthritis, and myopathy. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 30% of people with lupus also have fibromyalgia.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Musculoskeletal Pain SIphotography / Getty Images


Musculoskeletal Pain in Children

Musculoskeletal pain, while primarily seen in adults, can also affect children. Injuries or postural problems are the most likely causes and can often be rectified as the child grows. In some cases, however, rheumatic diseases like juvenile idiopathic arthritis are behind the joint and muscle pain. Medication and physical therapy may be used to treat this form of arthritis.

Children Musculoskeletal Pain Juvenile Arthritis Anut21ng / Getty Images


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