Bone pain or tenderness
Bone pain or tenderness is aching or other discomfort in one or more bones.
Aches and pains in bones; Pain - bones
Bone pain is less common than joint pain and muscle pain. The source of bone pain may be clear, such as from a fracture following an accident. Other causes, such as cancer that spreads (metastasizes) to the bone, may be less obvious.
Bone pain can occur with injuries or conditions such as:
- Cancer in the bones (primary malignancy)
- Cancer that has spread to the bones (metastatic malignancy)
- Disruption of blood supply (as in sickle cell anemia)
- Infected bone (osteomyelitis)
- Injury (trauma)
- Loss of mineralization (osteoporosis)
- Toddler fracture (a type of stress fracture that occurs in toddlers)
See your health care provider if you have bone pain and do not know why it is occurring.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Take any bone pain or tenderness very seriously. Contact your health care provider if you have any unexplained bone pain.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will ask you about your medical history and do a physical exam.
Some questions that may be asked include:
- Location of the pain
- Is the pain in the forearms, hands, lower legs, or feet?
- Is the pain in the main part of the arm or leg?
- Is the pain in the heels (calcaneal pain)?
- Time and pattern of the pain
- When did you first notice the pain?
- How long have you had the pain?
- Is it getting worse?
- What other symptoms do you have?
You may have the following tests:
- Blood studies (such as CBC, blood differential)
- Bone x-rays, including a bone scan
- CT or MRI scan
- Hormone level studies
- Pituitary and adrenal gland function studies
- Urine studies
Depending on the cause of the pain, your doctor may prescribe:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines
- Laxatives (if you develop constipation during prolonged bed rest)
- Pain relievers
If pain is related to thinning bones, you may need treatment for osteoporosis.
Choi L. Overuse injuries. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 14.
Lorenzo JA, Canalis E, Raisz LG. Metabolic bone disease. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 29.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.