What causes bone pain?
Bone pain is often described as a
deep or penetrating pain. It often is worse at night and when you move the
Bone pain, tenderness, or
achiness is a common problem, particularly among those who are middle-aged or
older. As you age, your body undergoes many changes. Muscle size and bone
density generally decrease as you become less active. This makes you more prone
to overuse injury and bone fractures.
While bone pain is most likely
due to decreased bone density or an injury to your bone, it can also be a sign
of a serious underlying medical condition. Bone pain or tenderness could be the
result of infection, an interruption in the blood supply, or cancer.
These conditions require
immediate medical attention. If you have unexplained bone pain, do not ignore
it. Make an appointment with your doctor to find out why.
Causes of bone pain
Bone pain can be caused by a wide
variety of conditions, including:
- bone fracture, or break
- overuse or repetitive movement injury
- hormone deficiency, usually due to menopause
- bone cancer
- cancer that has spread from the point of origin,
or metastatic malignancy
- cancer of the blood cells, or leukemia
- interruption in the blood supply caused by
conditions like sickle cell anemia
There are also some other
possible causes. Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bone mass is reduced
below what is considered normal.
Age, hormonal changes, and lack
of physical activity are factors that contribute to decreasing bone density.
This can increase your likelihood of developing bone fractures and suffering
If you have bone pain for no
obvious reason, or if you have previously been treated for cancer, you should
consult with your physician.
Diagnosing the cause of bone pain
Your doctor will want to know your
complete medical history, including previously diagnosed conditions, and the
specifics of your bone pain. These might include:
- the location
of your pain
- when your
- the level of
pain and whether or not it is increasing
- if your pain
changes with your activities
- any other
symptoms you may have
Depending on the specifics of
your pain, as well as a thorough physical examination, additional testing may
- X-rays of the bone that hurts (to identify
breaks, fractures, and abnormalities)
- CT scan, MRI, or bone scan of the affected
area or your entire body (to identify tumors or other abnormalities)
- blood studies
- urine studies
- hormone level studies
- pituitary and adrenal gland function studies
Treatment for bone pain
Your doctor will determine your
treatment based on your diagnosis. If you have any bone fractures or breaks,
those must be addressed. You will require a long-term treatment plan specific
to that diagnosis if you are found to have any underlying conditions, such as
osteoporosis or cancer
Prescription medications may
- drugs to relieve inflammation
- antibiotics, if you have an infection
- hormones, if you have a hormone imbalance
- pain relievers
Complementary therapies for
people with cancer include acupuncture, massage, and relaxation techniques.
Physical therapy or regular
exercise can help you to feel better and increase your strength and stamina,
while also increasing your bone mass. But make sure that before beginning an
exercise regimen for bone pain, check with your doctor.
Some exercises that might help
alleviate bone pain from specific causes include:
Low back pain
Stretching, walking, swimming, bicycling, and light strength
training can ease lower back pain.
Osteoporosis causes your bones to lose density and become weak and
brittle, increasing your chances of bone fractures. Exercising several times a
week can help build strength.
Walking, treadmill, climbing stairs, dancing, swimming, and
bicycling are recommended. Working with light weights can also help build
If you have arthritis, it may be tempting to avoid exercise. But
that is unwise. Exercise helps to keep your joints flexible and can reduce pain
in the long run. A balanced exercise regimen of stretching, walking, swimming,
and bicycling can help.
Avoid exercises that put stress on your joints, such as running,
competitive sports, and aerobics.
If you’ve had a total joint
replacement, avoid placing too much stress on the joint. Swimming and bicycling
are good choices.