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More than a third of the population experience musculoskeletal pain, especially back pain which affects an estimated 586 million people worldwide. Musculoskeletal pain can be caused by natural wear and tear as well as some medical conditions that cause persistent pain in the bones, joints, spine and across the body. It is also one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, a statistic that has dramatically increased in the past few years.
Whilst the nature of one’s pain varies from person to person, it can significantly impact your day-to-day life and your overall well being. If you experience any persistent pain, then you should see your doctor. Learn more about musculoskeletal pain and how to treat it here at HealthExpress.
Musculoskeletal pain is an unpleasant sensation that can occur anywhere in the body. It particularly affects the musculoskeletal system which is made of the muscles, bones, spine, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues that all help to keep form and stability to the body.
Pain is often a signal that something is wrong and can occur short-term, long-term or can come and go depending on the condition causing it. Short-term pain is classed as ‘acute’, and lasts for less than 3 months, and is typically caused by an injury or infection. Whilst ‘chronic pain’ is a persistent feeling, lasting for more than 3 months.
Pain is generally a mechanism used by your central nervous system to protect your body from harm. When you have an injury or any inflammation, it signals your body’s automatic response to stimulate your local pain receptors. This causes these receptors to send chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) to your spinal cord, which sends the message up to your brain. Your brain then processes that information and sends the pain message back to the area of your body that is injured, causing the body’s pain response. In the case of chronic pain, these pain receptors misfire and the central nervous system doesn’t adapt, which means typically harmless pain signals are amplified.
The most common cause of musculoskeletal pain is wear and tear of the musculoskeletal system over time. Whilst this can be caused by a specific disorder such as osteoarthritis, it is usually caused by:
These conditions are generally not serious, and can be treated and prevented by stretching and improving your posture.
The other main cause of musculoskeletal pain is an underlying disorder. In fact, there are at least 150 different musculoskeletal disorders. They all affect different areas of the musculoskeletal system and present different symptoms.
A few of the most common musculoskeletal disorders include:
Whilst the majority have a clear neuromuscular cause such as an injury or abnormality, the onset of some of these disorders doesn’t have an identifiable cause. This is true of conditions like fibromyalgia, SLE, CFS and some cases of arthritis. Some researchers have suggested genetics, central nervous system dysfunction as well as other environmental stressors as potential causes, but a single cause is unclear.
In some cases, pain may feel like it is stemming from your musculoskeletal system but may be caused by another organ system entirely. This is known as referred pain. A notable example is a heart attack, as although the pain originates from a person’s heart muscle, it radiates from your chest to your shoulder, arm and jaw.
This is why it is important to seek urgent medical advice for any sudden pain, as diagnostic tests will be required to find the cause.
Some people are more likely to develop musculoskeletal pain, either because they have preexisting conditions or due to their lifestyle such as those who:
The most characteristic symptom is pain in the joints, muscles or bones across the body. It may feel like a sharp stabbing pain or a dull ache. Accompanying symptoms will vary depending on the nature of the condition, but most people will generally experience some of the following as well as pain:
Symptoms may target specific areas of your body or may be more widespread, as is the case for those who have fibromyalgia or CFS. Others may not experience these symptoms consistently and they may come and go, which is classed as ‘intermittent pain’. Some may find their symptoms worsen in response to certain triggers such as stress, physical activity or illness.
Many musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia can’t be prevented. However, most cases of shoulder, neck and back pain (lumbago) can be treated with good posture. Good posture keeps your bones and joints in alignment which prevents wear and tear on your joints, reduces stress on the ligaments and keeps your muscles working more efficiently.
Here’s how you can keep a good standing posture:
As well as keeping a good posture, here are some other things that you can do to prevent back, shoulder and neck pain:
Other painkillers including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and mild opioids are available over the counter for acute or intermittent pain, such as ibuprofen, paracetamol or codeine.
However, long-term use of these medications without supervision from a doctor is ill advised. It can lead to raised acidity levels in your stomach which can damage the stomach lining over time and cause pain (gastritis) or acid reflux (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or GORD). This is why it’s important to treat your long-term condition as advised by your doctor, as they can closely monitor your symptoms and treatment.
There are also a selection of supplements available for inflammation or joint pain such as glucosamine, chondroitin, curcumin (turmeric) and fish oil. However, the findings on their effectiveness are mixed and you should always consult your doctor before starting a course of any supplement.
For most musculoskeletal pain, a doctor will most likely prescribe you an NSAID like Naproxen alongside a PPI (proton-pump inhibitor) like Omeprazole. This reduces the acid levels in your stomach, preventing pain and protecting your stomach lining. There is also a branded prescription medication known as Vimovo that contains both Naproxen and Omeprazole in one tablet.
If you have been diagnosed with a specific musculoskeletal disorder, you may also require more specific medicine. For instance, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you will be prescribed DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) or JAK inhibitors which ease symptoms and delay progression of the condition. These types of treatments will have to be prescribed under the supervision of your doctor.
Another option for musculoskeletal pain are supports and braces. These are typically elasticated bands that you fasten around an area that needs support. They are designed to stabilise weak joints as well as prevent pain and inflammation by limiting movement. You can purchase them for all areas of the body but are most commonly designed for the back, neck, knees, wrists and ankles. You can also get supports especially designed for sport to prevent any injury.
Having chronic musculoskeletal pain can be difficult, and often has to be treated with a combination of treatments. You may find your condition improves from any of the following:
Some people also find that alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage therapy help with their condition. While they have little medical basis for improving a musculoskeletal condition, they help you relax which helps many cope with their condition.
You should always speak to your doctor before starting any therapy, so they can assess whether it’s suitable for you or whether it’s worth doing.
You can purchase Naproxen here at HealthExpress for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain. If you are not already taking Omeprazole or something similar, you will also be prescribed Omeprazole to take alongside it to protect your stomach. All you have to do is fill out a consultation form that is reviewed by one of our registered doctors. Once they have found you are suitable for treatment, your medication will be dispensed and dispatched with next-day delivery.