Difference Between Bone Pain and Muscle Pain

Mar 21, 2022

Difference Between Bone Pain and Muscle PainBecause of the way that your skeletomuscular system works, it can be hard to ascertain whether the pain you sometimes feel is coming from your skeleton or your muscles. After all, your muscles are intricately wrapped around your bones, and your joints are held together with soft tissues like tendons and ligaments. Discerning the cause of the pain can seem impossible. Fortunately, there are a few specific ways in which muscle and bone pain differ. Knowing the origin of your pain can go a long way towards helping your doctor come to a diagnosis.

Bone Pain Characteristics

While this is largely a set of subjective terms, in general, bone pain is reported as being “deeper” or more intense than muscle pain. Bone pain can also feel much more debilitating: consider the differences between a strained ankle versus a broken ankle. The broken ankle will feel sharper, and the associated pain will be much more difficult to mute with over-the-counter painkillers. Bone pain will also be apparent even at rest, unlike muscle pain.

Common Causes of Bone Pain

There are a few conditions that are associated with bone pain. What follows is an incomplete list of some of these conditions and their symptoms.


Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by increasing porousness of the bones throughout the body. As your bones lose density and mass and thus become more porous, they are less able to support the rest of your body, and you will experience pain. Research states that half of all white women over the age of 50 will break a bone for reasons related to osteoporosis. This disease is difficult to spot because there are no symptoms. Many people do not realize they have osteoporosis until they experience a fracture. However, there are some early signs to look out for: a stooped posture, height loss, severe back pain, and a tendency to fall. A fall can be particularly dangerous for a person with osteoporosis, and many people end up needing surgery for hip, knee, and other replacements.

Bone Fractures

A fracture is when your bones break or crack. This can happen to any of the bones in your body, from the very smallest to the largest and strongest. There are different kinds of fractures depending on what they look like and their impact on the body.

  • Stress fracture: Caused by repetition, overuse, or undue stress.
  • Non-displaced: Partially broken or cracked bone, does not separate
  • Displaced: The bone breaks or cracks and the bones separate either partially or completely
  • Open: The broken bone causes protrusion and breaks the skin
  • Closed: The broken bone remains contained by the skin
  • Avulsion fracture: Chips in the bone, caused by tendon pulling away

Most people notice bruising or swelling in the area of their injury. They may have heard a sound like a snap during the incident that caused the break, and the area may be very tender or painful. However, sometimes people break bones and do not realize it for several days. If you recently experienced any form of fall or other physical trauma, it’s a good idea to contact a doctor in order to rule out the possibility of a fracture by completing an exam and probably an x-ray.

Bone Cancer

There are multiple forms of bone cancer, or cancer that begins in the cells of the bone, that can cause undue pain. Some of the most common are leukemia, osteosarcoma, multiple myeloma, chondrosarcoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These cancers rarely appear in older adults, and cancers like osteosarcoma are most common in people aged ten to thirty. Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • A dull, deep, achy pain that appears in any area where there are bones
  • Unexplained swelling or inflammation
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue that gets gradually worse, as it tends to do when cancer begins to spread to other parts of your body

The treatment for bone cancer depends on the nature of your cancer and the extent to which it has advanced within your body. Many times, it can be removed through surgery, but you may also need to combine several other therapies, such as radiation, chemotherapy, and other targeted interventions.

Common Causes of Muscle Pain

You are more likely to experience muscle pain than bone pain, and muscle injuries account for up to 55% of all sports injuries every year. Another word for muscle pain is myalgia, and it is an umbrella term for all the other tissues along with muscles, including tendons and ligaments. Muscle pain can occur for a number of reasons.

Muscle Strain

One of the most common reasons for muscle pain is a strain. Strains refer to damage to the soft tissue around the bone, including the muscle and the tendon, and differ from sprains in that sprains usually involve the ligament. Strains are common for athletes and those whose work includes frequent repetitive movements, like people who lift very heavy boxes all day. They can occur very quickly, like in the case of an injury, or may they appear gradually. When muscle strains do reveal themselves, you may also experience swelling, tenderness,, reduced range of motion, and muscle weakness. The best treatment for muscle strain is the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.


This misunderstood disorder causes pain – myalgia, or muscle pain – all over the body. It is most often diagnosed in women–so much so that some research shows that 90% of fibromyalgia patients are women. The pain is usually unexplained. Chronic fatigue and headaches are another frequent symptom of this disorder. Although there is no cure for this disorder, pain can be managed with over-the-counter medications as well as other therapies, like chiropractic treatment for headaches.

Autoimmune Diseases

This group of conditions manifests in different ways, but all are the results of an individual’s overactive immune system, which generates immunity cells that attack their own bodies, including their organs and muscles. Muscle pain, sensitivity to touch, chronic fatigue or increased fatigue with exertion, and muscle weakness are some of the many possible symptoms.

If you are experiencing pain with an unknown cause, the team at AICA Atlanta is available to help you get to the root cause and plan your next steps for optimal healing.


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