Bone pain is often described as a deep or penetrating pain. It often is worse at night and when you move the affected limb.
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 bone pain.
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 pain began
- 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 include:
- 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 include:
- 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 strength.
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.
Medically Reviewed by: William A. Morrison MD
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.