Pain - bones

Alternative names
Aches and pains in bones; Bone pain or tenderness

Definition
Bone pain or tenderness involves aching or other discomfort in one or more bones.

Considerations

Bone pain is seen less commonly than joint pain and muscle pain. The source of bone pain may be obvious, as in a fracture following an accident, or more subtle, such as cancer that metastasizes (spreads) to the bone.

Whatever the source, bone pain should always be taken seriously. You should seek medical attention any time you experience bone pain.

Common Causes

Bone pain can be caused by many injuries or conditions:

     
  • Trauma (injury)  
  • Toddler fracture (a type of stress fracture peculiar to toddlers)  
  • Overuse  
  • Infection  
  • Primary malignancy (cancer in the bones)  
  • Metastatic malignancy (cancer that has spread to the bones)  
  • Loss of mineralization (osteoporosis)  
  • Disruption of blood supply (as in sickle cell anemia)  
  • Leukemia  
  • Osteomyelitis

Home Care
For unexplained bone pain, see your health care provider.

Call your health care provider if

Any bone pain or tenderness should be taken very seriously. Contact your health care provider if you have any unexplained bone pain.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

Your health care provider will obtain your medical history and will perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions documenting bone pain may include the following:

     
  • Location       o Is the pain in the forearms, hands, lower legs, or feet (distal extremities)?       o Is the pain in the main part of the arm or leg?       o Is the pain in the heels (calcaneal pain)?  
  • Time pattern       o When did you first notice the pain (at what age did the pain begin)?       o How long has the pain been present?       o Is it getting worse?  
  • Is the bone enlarging?  
  • What other symptoms are also present?

The physical examination will include detailed examination of the affected body part.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

     
  • Blood studies (such as CBC, blood differential)  
  • CT scan  
  • Hormone level studies  
  • Pituitary and adrenal gland function studies  
  • Urine studies  
  • Bone X-rays

Antibiotics, cortisone drugs, pain relievers, hormones, and laxatives (if constipation develops during prolonged bed rest) may be prescribed, depending on the cause of the bone pain.

Calcium, vitamin D supplements, estrogen, or other medications may be prescribed for osteoporosis.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.