Bone pain or tenderness
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Bone pain or tenderness

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Aches and pains in bones; Pain - 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 it may be more subtle, such as cancer that spreads (metastasizes) to the bone.

Whatever the source, bone pain should always be taken seriously. Seek medical attention any time you have bone pain.

Causes

Bone pain can occur with many injuries or conditions:

  • Cancer in the bones (primary malignancy)
  • Cancer that has spread to the bones (metastatic malignancy)
  • Disruption of blood supply (as in sickle cell anemia)
  • Infected bone (osteomyelitis)
  • Infection
  • Injury (trauma)
  • Leukemia
  • Loss of mineralization (osteoporosis)
  • Overuse
  • Toddler fracture (a type of stress fracture that occurs in toddlers)

Home Care

For unexplained bone pain, see your health care provider.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Take any bone pain or tenderness very seriously. Contact your health care provider if you have any unexplained bone pain.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will ask you about your medical history and perform a physical exam.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Location of the pain
    • Is the pain in the forearms, hands, lower legs, or feet (distal extremities)?
    • Is the pain in the main part of the arm or leg?
    • Is the pain in the heels (calcaneal pain)?
  • Time and pattern of the pain
    • When did you first notice the pain (at what age did the pain begin)?
    • How long have you had the pain?
    • Is it getting worse?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • Blood studies (such as CBC, blood differential)
  • Bone x-rays, including a bone scan
  • CT or MRI scan
  • Hormone level studies
  • Pituitary and adrenal gland function studies
  • Urine studies

Depending on the cause of the pain, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Hormones
  • Laxatives (if you develop constipation during prolonged bed rest)
  • Pain relievers

For osteoporosis treatment, see the article on osteoporosis.

References

Choi L. Overuse injuries. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 14.

Lorenzo JA, Canalis E, Raisz LG. Metabolic bone disease. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 28.



Review Date: 5/1/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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