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 provider if you have any unexplained bone pain.
Your provider will ask you about your medical history and do a physical exam.
Some questions that may be asked include:
- Where is the pain located?
- How long have you had pain and when did it start?
- Is the pain getting worse?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
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 provider 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.
McCormack RG, Lopez CA. Commonly encountered fractures in sports medicine. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 13.
Weber TJ. Osteoporosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 243.
Whyte MP. Osteonecrosis, osteosclerosis/hyperostosis, and other disorders of bone. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 248.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.