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What Pain in These Bones and Joints Could Mean

Richard Meyer, MD

Living with pain is, to put it mildly, unpleasant. Some people think pain is just a normal part of aging. But you don’t have to accept pain as part of your life.

First, it helps to find out the potential causes of your pain. Below is a guide to what pain in certain parts of your body might mean. Generally, a patient can wait 3-4 weeks before consulting with your physician if symptoms don’t improve or worsen.

Back Pain

Back pain can be caused by a strain, sprain, or injury that affects ligaments or muscles around the spine. Other common causes include arthritis, disk problems, or fractures of the spine’s vertebrae. But some back pain has its root in more commonplace problems, such as being overweight, experiencing a long period of inactivity, or being stressed.

Back pain usually gets better on its own, but if your pain lasts for more than three months, talk with your Orthopaedist.

Neck Pain

Your neck contains vertebrae, ligaments, joints, tendons, nerves, and muscles—all of which can be a possible source of pain. Neck pain is often caused by muscle strain or tension, usually from overuse like sitting at a computer. Accidents or falls are also common causes of neck pain.

Work with your Orthopaedist to manage neck pain. He or she may recommend neck stretches, ice massages, heat pads, over the counter pain medications, muscle relaxants, or massage therapy.

Shoulder Pain

What we call the shoulder joint is actually three bones, which combine with tendons and muscles to allow for a wide range of motion. But shoulders can also be unstable, leaving them open to many types of injury and pain:

  • Tendon inflammation, which includes tendinitis, bursitis or tears
  • Dislocation, which happens when the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket
  • Arthritis, which can develop slowly as a cause of wear and tear
  • A broken bone, which can affect any of the shoulder’s many bones

Hip Pain

Three common causes of hip pain all have different causes and treatments:

  • Osteoarthritis: This condition causes deteriorating cartilage, resulting in pain typically felt in the hip joint, inner thigh, groin, or buttocks.
  • Tendinitis: This tissue inflammation may cause pain and swelling just outside your hip joint.
  • Bursitis: This inflammation of the sacs of fluid that cushion your tendons can cause burning or pain on the side of your hip.

Other Joint or Bone Pain

Sometimes experiencing pain in your joints or bones can mean you have a general condition that affects your body. These include:

  • Osteoarthritis: This degenerative disease becomes more common with age and usually develops in the hands, neck, lower back, knees, and hips.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This autoimmune disease causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced movement. It often develops in middle age and is most common among older adults, but teenagers and young adults can get it, too.
  • Paget’s disease: This disease causes bones to grow too large and weak, and to break more easily. It is more common in older adults.
  • Bone cancer: Primary bone cancer is uncommon, but cancers from organs like the breast or prostate gland can spread to the bones and can be a cause of bone pain.

Dr. Richard Meyer is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists of New Orleans, who works at Touro Infirmary. He is fellowship-trained in hip and knee reconstructive surgery and sports medicine.