Common causes of musculoskeletal pain

The human body is designed to move, and the musculoskeletal system is the foundation for our movements. The musculoskeletal system includes bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues, and it provides our body with the stability, shape, and support needed for movement. This interconnected system is controlled by the nervous system.

According to World Health Organization, “Musculoskeletal conditions comprise more than 150 conditions that affect the movement system of individuals. They range from those that arise suddenly and are short-lived, such as fractures, sprains, and strains, to lifelong conditions associated with ongoing functioning limitations and disability.”

The main elements of musculoskeletal problems are acute or persistent pain and limitations in mobility and overall functioning. Pain may start suddenly and be short-lived, which is called acute pain. Pain that lasts for more than 3 to 6 months is called chronic or persistent pain.

Pain is a complex experience, and many factors contribute to your pain experience, including trauma and overuse injuries, diseases, sedentary lifestyle, sleep disturbance, poor posture, previous experiences, and unhelpful beliefs.

Musculoskeletal pain can be felt in just one area of the body, such as your back, or throughout your body if you have a widespread condition like fibromyalgia. The pain experience can range from mild to severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day life. The quality of pain can vary based on location, causes, and affected structures. Sometimes different symptoms might be felt, such as numbness, swelling, soreness, stiffness, weakness, and muscle spasms.

Since musculoskeletal pain can have multiple causes, a detailed history is important for diagnosis. Healthcare professionals may ask several questions to find out an effective strategy to deal with your pain, such as:

  • How did your pain start? Trauma/Overuse
  • What does it feel like? Dull/Stabbing/Tingling
  • What makes it worse or better?
  • Where does it hurt?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

The good news is that most musculoskeletal conditions can be managed successfully if their multifactorial nature is not ignored.


MSK-0033 Rev A