Musculoskeletal Pain 101

According to the World Health Organization, musculoskeletal (MSK) pain conditions affect approximately 1.7 billion people worldwide. This number is expected to rise over the next several years due to population growth and aging.

Explore the different types of MSK pain conditions—their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and management.

Note: The term “MSK” is often used instead of the word “orthopedic.”

What Is Musculoskeletal Pain?

MSK pain is a term used to describe discomfort or pain that originates in the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, or other parts of the musculoskeletal system. It can vary in intensity, duration, and location and be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).

Common Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain

  • Muscle Strains
    Overstretching or tearing of muscles, often due to overexertion or improper lifting techniques.
  • Ligament Sprains
    Overstretching or tearing of ligaments that connect bones to one another, often caused by sudden movements or MSK trauma.
  • Tendonitis
    Inflammation of tendons, typically from overuse or repetitive movements.
  • Osteoarthritis
    A degenerative joint disease that involves the breakdown of joint cartilage and can lead to pain and stiffness
  • Fractures
    Broken bones or other musculoskeletal injuries resulting from trauma.
  • Overuse or Repetitive Strain Injuries
    Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and runner’s knee can result from repetitive movements and overuse.

Note: Many people experience MSK pain as a result of playing sports without proper stretching or warm-up

Common Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Problems

Pain is often the most prominent symptom. It can range from mild to severe and may be localized to a specific area or spread throughout the body.

  • Stiffness
    Stiffness in joints or muscles, especially after periods of inactivity or upon waking in the morning, is a common symptom.
  • Swelling or inflammation
    Swelling or inflammation in the affected area may occur, often accompanied by pain and warmth.
  • Weakness
    Weakness in muscles around the affected area can lead to difficulty with everyday activities and movements.
  • Tenderness
    Tenderness or sensitivity to touch at the site of the problem is common.

How Do Upswing Professionals Assess Musculoskeletal Pain and Conditions?

  • Our Upswing team assesses musculoskeletal pain conditions by combining smart A-I driven technology with experienced orthopedic specialists to better understand the nature of your pain.
  • The assessment begins with answering a few questions on our symptom assessment app that helps determine the likely causes of your pain. Based on that, you can access condition-specific information and begin to learn about your condition.
  • Once you complete your initial assessment, you can connect with an Upswing Coach (Certified Athletic Trainers) to review your answers. They will take some objective measurements using our motion tracking technology and personalize a rehabilitation program for you.
  • You can also connect with an Upswing Orthopedic Specialist who will further explore your symptoms, diagnose your problem, and make additional treatment recommendations.

Upswing Health offers a full-spectrum orthopedic solution to get patients with musculoskeletal pain on the right care path from the start. Our services are designed to intervene at the ‘ouch moment,’ when people typically ask, “What do I have?’ and ‘Where do I go?’

With Upswing, your first step is a free AI-enhanced symptom assessment tool that provides immediate insights into the nature of your condition. Our program includes customized rehabilitation programs developed by licensed physical therapists to manage acute injuries and chronic orthopedic conditions. For more serious conditions, this is often followed by on-demand video consultations with our orthopedic physicians.

Upswing Health can also facilitate making an appointment with an in-network orthopedic surgeon and ordering labs and tests as needed.

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Treatment Options for Musculoskeletal Pain Conditions

Education and self-management are essential as you progress on your journey to full recovery. Learning about your condition, its triggers, and strategies for self-management is empowering and is the aim of the Upswing team.

In many cases, resting the affected area and avoiding activities that worsen symptoms is the first step in treatment. Activity modification can help reduce stress on the musculoskeletal system and promote healing.

The Upswing team is trained to design personalized exercises and video-based rehabilitation programs that can improve strength, flexibility, and function. They can also use motion tracking technologies to measure your function and monitor your progress.

The Upswing team can recommend over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can help manage pain and reduce inflammation.

  • Bracing and Orthotics
    The Upswing team can recommend bracing or orthotic devices to support and stabilize the affected area, such as a knee brace for knee osteoarthritis or occasionally custom orthotics for foot or ankle problems.
  • Injections
    Corticosteroid injections or hyaluronic acid injections can provide localized musculoskeletal pain relief and reduce inflammation in conditions like osteoarthritis or tendonitis. If this becomes necessary, we will refer you to the appropriate provider.

Fortunately, the vast majority of MSK problems are resolved without surgical interventions, but should this become necessary, the Upswing team can facilitate a referral to an orthopedic surgeon.

There are other alternatives, such as lifestyle modifications and complementary therapies, that the Upswing team can help guide you along your healing journey.

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Read the Upswing Health Sprain Guide

Prognosis for Musculoskeletal Conditions

Fortunately, most acute muscle strains or sprains have an excellent prognosis and will resolve with rest and appropriate non-surgical treatment. Chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions such as osteoarthritis may require long-term management.

The severity of the condition plays a significant role in the prognosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can often lead to better outcomes.

The initial effectiveness of treatment can also greatly influence the prognosis. Patient adherence to treatment recommendations and lifestyle modifications also play a crucial role.

A person’s overall health can impact their ability to recover from musculoskeletal conditions.

Every individual is unique, and responses to treatment and prognosis can vary. Some people may have a more favorable response to treatment and experience better outcomes than others with the same condition.

Taking steps to prevent or manage musculoskeletal conditions can positively impact prognosis. This includes maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, practicing good posture, engaging in regular exercise, and adhering to prescribed treatments.

Get a comprehensive assessment of your musculoskeletal condition and Learn how to alleviate your musculoskeletal pain with telehealth services from Upswing Health. Our free assessment tool, clinical staff, and physicians are ready to help you live without pain!

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Upswing Health’s Sprain Guide | Guide to Sports Injuries | Downloadable MSK Resources

Where do you hurt? Back Pain | Elbow Pain | Foot & Ankle Pain | Hand & Wrist Pain | Knee & Lower Leg Pain | Neck Pain | Pelvis, Hip & Thigh Pain | Shoulder Pain