Occasional aches and pains are normal and may be caused by physical activity or minor injuries. However, if you feel persistent, dull, “deep-bone” pain in one or more areas of your body, it would be best to consult a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis, especially if the pain is accompanied by swelling, tenderness, or stiffness in the affected area.
Bone pain may be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, or an injury that has not healed properly.
Why Are My Bones Hurting?
There are a variety of conditions that influence bone health and subsequently cause bone pain. If you are experiencing persistent bone pain, seeing a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment is important.
Injury Or Trauma
When a person suffers an injury or trauma to a bone, it can cause bone pain due to damage to the bone tissue. Fractures, for example, occur when a bone is broken, which can lead to significant pain that may be localised to the site of the fracture or spread throughout the bone.
Similarly, dislocations happen when the ends of bones are forced out of their normal position, causing pain and discomfort. Other types of trauma, such as a contusion or a crush injury, can also damage bones and cause bone pain. In such cases, the pain may be accompanied by swelling, tenderness, and difficulty using the affected area.
Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints, which are the places in the body where two bones come together. When a person has arthritis, their joints become inflamed, which can lead to pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving the joint.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in the joint wears down over time. This can cause bone-on-bone contact, leading to pain and stiffness in the affected joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own joint tissues, causing inflammation and pain. This can result in bone erosion and deformity, further exacerbating the pain.
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects some people with psoriasis, a skin condition. It can cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, similar to other types of arthritis. In all these types of arthritis, bone pain can be a symptom due to the inflammation and damage caused to the joint and the surrounding tissues.
Osteoporosis causes the loss of bone density, which can make bones fragile and prone to fracture. As the bones lose density, they become weaker and more brittle. This can result in small, often unnoticed fractures or more significant fractures that can cause severe pain.
In the spine, osteoporosis can cause small fractures in the vertebrae, leading to a loss of height and curvature of the spine. This can cause back pain and pain radiating from the back to the arms or legs. In the hips, osteoporosis can increase the risk of hip fractures, which can cause severe pain and immobility.
Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because bone loss occurs without any noticeable symptoms until a fracture occurs. However, if you have osteoporosis, you may experience bone pain, particularly in areas such as the spine and hips. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, regular bone density tests will help monitor your bone health and detect any early signs of bone loss. Early detection of bone density loss can help prevent osteoporosis.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder of unknown cause that affects how the brain processes pain signals, leading to widespread pain throughout the body. It is characterised by muscle pain and stiffness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and tender points, which are localised areas of tenderness on the body.
The pain associated with fibromyalgia can be felt in the muscles, bones, and joints and can be especially severe in certain areas, such as the neck, shoulders, hips, and back. While the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, it is thought to be related to various factors, including genetics, hormonal imbalances, and physical or emotional trauma.
Fibromyalgia can also cause other symptoms, such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression, contributing to a person's overall sense of pain and discomfort.
Certain infections can lead to bone pain because the pathogens that cause these infections can directly affect the bones or cause inflammation and tissue damage in the surrounding areas.
Osteomyelitis is a type of bone infection caused by bacteria that enter the bone through a wound, bloodstream, or surgical procedure. Once inside the bone, the bacteria can cause inflammation, swelling, and bone destruction, leading to significant pain in the affected area.
Other infections that can cause bone pain include viral infections like hepatitis C and HIV, leading to osteoporosis and other bone conditions. Fungal infections like aspergillosis and candidiasis can also infect the bones and cause bone pain.
Certain parasitic infections like schistosomiasis and cysticercosis can also affect the bones, leading to bone pain as a symptom. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect an infection is causing your bone pain, as prompt treatment is essential for preventing complications.
Calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium are essential nutrients for bone health. Calcium and magnesium are important components of bone tissue, while vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain healthy bones.
If a person's diet lacks sufficient amounts of these nutrients or their body cannot absorb them properly, it can lead to a condition known as osteomalacia or softening of the bones. This condition can cause bone pain and weakness, especially in the hips, legs, and ribs. In severe cases, it can also lead to deformities in the bones.
Consuming a balanced and nutrient-rich diet and ensuring adequate sun exposure is important to prevent vitamin D deficiency and maintain good bone health.
Bone pain can occur due to certain types of cancer, as cancer cells can affect the bone tissue and lead to pain. Bone cancer is a primary cancer that starts in the bones, while metastatic cancer is a cancer that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the bones. Cancer cells spreading to the bones can cause pain, weakness, and fractures. Bone pain caused by cancer can be severe and often worsens over time.
Get Some Tests Done
Persistent bone pain can be debilitating and have an overall negative impact on your life. Diagnosing the underlying reason for the bone pain is the first step towards relief. Your doctor will determine which tests to order based on your specific symptoms and medical history. Some of the tests that may be done include.
- Blood tests check for markers of inflammation or infection and to evaluate levels of certain minerals and vitamins, such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
- X-rays are used to look for changes or abnormalities in the bones.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans obtain detailed images of the bones and soft tissues.
- Bone density test measure bone density and diagnose osteoporosis.
- A biopsy examines a small sample of bone tissue to diagnose bone cancer or infection.
- Nerve conduction tests check for nerve damage that may be causing bone pain.
- Ultrasounds evaluate soft tissues and blood flow in the area of pain.
Is My Bone Pain Normal?
Occasional bone pain can be a normal part of life and may be caused by physical activity or minor injuries. However, persistent, dull, "deep-bone" pain in one or more body areas could indicate an underlying medical condition. Various factors, including injury or trauma, arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, infections, and nutritional deficiencies, can cause bone pain.
Therefore, consulting a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment is important. Maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and getting enough sunlight exposure can help improve bone health and prevent bone-related conditions.