Bone Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and When to See Your Doctor

Bone pain can be from an injury or a serious condition, and if accompanied by other symptoms, it can indicate an emergency situation. With prompt diagnosis, the underlying cause of bone pain can be effectively treated. Here’s everything you need to know.

9 minute read

Last Updated July 14, 2020

Bone Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and When to See Your Doctor

Bone pain refers to any tenderness or aching in one or more of your bones. Bone pain is different from muscle or joint pain because it will be present even when you are not moving. Muscle aches and joint pain are only felt when they are moved. 

Bone pain is commonly linked to diseases that impact the healthy function and structure of the bone, and the pain will be felt regardless of movement. 

What Causes Bone Pain 

Injury is one of the most common causes of bone pain and is the result of trauma such as a car accident, sporting accident, or fall. The impact can cause fractures or breaks, depending on the force, but any damage to the bone will cause bone pain. 

In addition to injury, there are a number of conditions that can cause bone pain.

Infection: Any viral or bacterial infection that reaches your bone can cause a condition known as osteomyelitis. This infection and inflammation kill bone cells, which causes severe bone pain

Mineral deficiency: Your bones require several essential nutrients to stay strong and healthy such as calcium and vitamin D. Without these minerals, your risk of osteoporosis increases as does your risk for fractures as a result of weakened bone structure. Chronic bone pain is common in elderly individuals in the later stages of osteoporosis. 

♦ Bone cancer: Cancer cells that originate in the bone cause bone cancer, and although rare, it can be very painful. When cancer disturbs the bone structure and destroys healthy cells and tissues, pain is a common side effect.

♦ Metastatic cancer: Cancer that starts elsewhere in the body and moves to the bones is more common and also causes pain as it destroys bone cells. 

♦ Sickle cell anemia: This disease interferes with the blood supply to your bones, and without a constant blood supply, tissues will die. As the bones weaken, the pain will increase. 

♦ Leukemia: Leukemia is cancer of the bone marrow, which is responsible for producing bone cells. Pain is typically felt in the leg bones with leukemia. 

Symptoms of Bone Pain

Pain and discomfort, whether moving or still, are the most recognizable symptoms of bone pain. Additional symptoms will depend on the cause of the pain.

Injury: a snap or grinding noise, swelling, and a visible deformity 

Mineral deficiency: fatigue, sleep disturbances, muscle pain, and weakness

Osteoporosis: stooped posture, back pain, and loss of height

Infection: redness, swelling, warmth, loss of appetite, nausea, and decreased range of motion

Blood supply disruption: joint pain, weakness, and loss of joint function

Leukemia: fatigue, shortness of breath, night sweats, pale skin, and unexplained weight loss

Bone cancer: lump under the skin, numbness, and increased bone fractures

Metastatic cancer: symptoms will depend on where cancer has spread and can include headaches, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, seizures, and a swollen abdomen.

Diagnosis of Bone Pain

The underlying cause of your bone pain needs to be identified before treatment can be provided. Your doctor will perform a physical examination first and review your medical history. 

The doctor will need to know where the pain is located, if it is getting worse, and what other symptoms you are experiencing. In addition to this, additonal testing may be done to further identify the underlying cause.

♦ Blood tests can identify nutrient deficiencies, blood disorders, and infections.

♦ X-rays and imaging scans can evaluate affected areas and identify tumors, lesions, or injuries. 

♦ Urine analysis can detect abnormalities in the bone marrow, such as multiple myeloma (cancer of the white blood cells).

Treatment for Bone Pain

The underlying cause of bone pain is treated to relieve pain and discomfort. Getting as much rest as possible is always recommended during treatment, but general treatment options for bone pain include:

Pain medications: This is the most commonly prescribed treatment option, but it does not address any underlying conditions. Depending on the severity of your pain, you can take over-the-counter medications, or you will be prescribed stronger pain relievers but your doctor.

Antibiotics: A course of antibiotics will be given for infections of the bone. The full course must be followed even if the pain goes away after a few days. Stopping the course before this can cause the infection to return.

♦ Supplements: Calcium and vitamin D supplements can be taken to address nutrient deficiencies. 

Cancer treatments: It is a challenge to treat bone pain associated with cancer because cancer has to be treated in order to reduce pain. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are common treatments for cancer, but these can increase bone pain. To help reduce pain during treatment, you may be given opiate pain relievers or drugs known as bisphosphonates. 

Surgery is sometimes required in cases of tumor removal or when bone tissues have died as a result of serious infection. Sometimes tumors and cancer can cause fractures, and you will need surgery to re-set the bones so they can heal in proper alignment. In cases where joints need to be replaced or substituted, you may also need reconstructive surgery. 

Natural Treatment for Bone Pain

When bone pain is caused by mineral deficiency and brittle bones, there are natural treatments you can use. Bone loss occurs naturally with age as bone metabolism slows. Any mineral deficiency can compound this issue, making bones even weaker. 

To prevent bone diseases and bone loss that can contribute to bone pain, try these natural options as part of your regular health routine.

Vitamin D3: Vitamin D deficiency is commonly associated with bone pain. Calcifediol is the circulating form of vitamin D in your blood, and vitamin D3 yields more of this than other forms of the vitamin. It is therefore recommended to take vitamin D3 supplements to quickly correct any deficiency. 

MenaQ7: MenaQ7 contains an optimal form of vitamin K2, a mineral essential for bone health. Without vitamin K2, calcium is not transported to the bones as needed. The result is weaker bones and increased risk of bone disease.

CalZbone: You get Cissus quadrangularis extract as well as other bone-healing components from this plant-based ingredient. By inhibiting bone breakdown and boosting bone growth, you prevent bone loss commonly associated with aging. The combined antioxidant and bone-healing properties of this extract can also naturally prevent conditions that cause bone pain. 

How to Prevent Bone Pain

Since bone pain can be associated with diseases and medical conditions, it is not always something you can prevent. The best approach to minimizing your risk for these conditions and bone pain is to protect your bone health. 

♦ Maintain a healthy and balanced diet
♦ Avoid smoking
♦ Limit alcohol consumption
♦ Get regular physical activity
♦ Get enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet

When to See Your Doctor

Bone pain can be from an injury or a more serious condition, and even mild pain can indicate an emergency situation. You need to reach out for immediate medical attention should you experience any unexplained bone pain that does not improve after a few days. 

If the pain is also accompanied by fatigue, weight loss, or appetite loss, you should also call your doctor right away. With prompt diagnosis, the underlying cause of bone pain can be effectively treated, so it is important to reach out as soon as you suspect something is wrong.

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