Musculoskeletal Pain and Arthritis 

 Learn more about the connection between musculoskeletal pain and arthritis and where you may experience this type of pain in your body.

Structures in the musculoskeletal system – besides bones, cartilage and synovium (lining inside a joint) – can cause pain if you have arthritis.  

Where you can experience musculoskeletal pain caused by arthritis:  

  • Muscles. Muscle pain is a main symptom in some types of arthritis-related diseases, such as fibromyalgia, myositis and polymyalgia rheumatica. Your muscles may also ache if they are weakened due to lack of use or when trying to support joints with arthritis. 

  • Ligaments. Joints are held together with tough bands of tissue connecting two bones. Ligaments can become torn, stretched or weakened when you have arthritis. 

  • Tendons. These strong bands of tissue connect muscles to bone. Tendinitis occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed or irritated due to arthritis or overuse. 

  • Bursae. These fluid-filled sacs pad the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis happens when bursae become inflamed or irritated due to arthritis or overuse. 

Soft-tissue Musculoskeletal Damage 

Athletes may have specific kinds of soft-tissue damage. Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are painful conditions that involve inflammation of the tendons holding the muscles of the elbow together. Runners may get a condition called plantar fasciitis when the thick band of tissue along the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. 

Neuropathic Musculoskeletal Pain 

Some people may feel nerve-related (neuropathic) musculoskeletal pain when joint damage closes the “tunnel” or opening that a nerve passes through. For example, you may feel the effects of sciatica (pain going from the back down the leg) if you have arthritis in your spine; carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in the wrist going into the hand) if you have arthritis in your wrist; or tarsal tunnel syndrome (pain in the ankle going into the bottom of the foot or the toes) if you have arthritis in your ankle. 

Understanding the different types of musculoskeletal pain and how it can be connected to arthritis (or not) can help you develop a good pain management strategy with your doctor. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about any of pain you experience that may be related to arthritis so they can help you explore possible causes and treatment.

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