Muscle and Joint Pain
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
This article contains self-care information for the selected condition. If you have questions or need more comprehensive treatment advice, please consult a medical professional.
What are acute muscle and joint pain?
Acute muscle and joint pain is a common condition that can affect different parts of the body, including the muscles of the chest, abdominal, back, and extremities. Shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, knees, and ankles are most often the affected joints. It is sometimes referred to as body aches.
Muscle and joint pain can be caused by injury, intense work or sport, poor posture, and medical conditions (such as infections, myositis, and arthritis).
The main symptoms are pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion of the affected body parts.
Diagnosis is usually based on history and physical examination by a healthcare professional. In some cases, other lab tests and image studies, like an x-ray scan, might be needed.
Treatment of muscle and joint pain depends on the cause of the pain and can include rest, physiotherapy, painkillers, warm packs, and gentle massages.
Acute muscle and joint pain can be prevented by keeping good posture while working, warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after doing sports and avoiding accidents. Keeping good hygiene practices also prevents some infection-related muscular and joint pain.
The pain usually gets better within a few days. However, in some cases, depending on the causes, it may take more time to recover completely, and sometimes the pain can turn chronic.
Causes of acute muscle and joint pain
Acute muscle and joint pain are very common conditions that the majority of people will experience at some point in their lives.
The most common causes of acute muscle and joint pain are:
- Poor posture
- Muscle strains
- Intensive sports
- Injuries to muscle, tendon, cartilage, bone, etc
- Dislocation of joints
- Other medical conditions (influenza, gout, other infection/inflammation, etc).
Symptoms of muscle and joint pain
Symptoms are mainly pain and discomfort in the affected locations, that may cause some inconvenience while doing daily activities. The pain can range from sharp stabbing pain that comes and goes to pain that only comes when the joint is used. The most common symptoms of this condition are:
- Reduced mobility
- Muscle twitch
- Sleep disturbance
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A diagnosis of muscle and join pain can be made by a doctor or other healthcare professional on the basis of your medical history, symptoms, and physical examinations.
Other blood testing and image studies, like X-rays, CT, and MRI, are sometimes necessary to confirm the causes.
Treatment of muscle and joint pain
Most common cases of acute muscle and joint pain, including lower back, upper back, wrist, elbow, ankle, knee and finger, heal within days after resting the affected part. However, here are some suggestions to help you with the symptoms:
- Cool and warm packing.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Physiotherapy, like strengthening and stretching exercises.
- Stress reduction techniques.
- Treatment for specific causes, like antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, surgery, etc.
Prevention of muscle and joint pain
There are some strategies to prevent acute muscle and joint pain. For example, keeping good posture while typing to avoid wrist or back pain, warm-up and cool-down your limb muscles and joints before and after doing sports, and avoiding accidents. Good hygiene practices can also prevent some infection-related muscular and joint pain.
Acute muscle and joint pain usually get better within days. However, in some cases, depending on the causes, it might take more time to recover completely, and sometimes the pain might turn chronic. For example, long-term poor posture while working on the computer can lead to insidious back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, which presents with chronic wrist discomfort.
Also, if the pain is caused by autoimmune diseases, like rheumatic arthritis, the discomfort of the finger, wrist, knee, and other joints could last longer.
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Cdc.gov. (2021). Joint pain and arthritis. Accessed 17 February 2022.
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Bmj.com (2022). Overview of musculoskeletal pain. Accessed 17 February 2022.
Warburton DL (2020). Top tips: joint pain. Guidelines in Practice. Accessed 17 February 2022.