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Aching Bones

Aching Bones

Pain and discomfort in the bones can be caused by several conditions, right from fracture to certain serious diseases, like cancer and bone infection.
Medha Godbole
Little toe with severe inflammation and bruising
Bones are one of the strongest parts of our body and they are responsible for facilitating our mobility. They are also responsible for maintaining the overall gait and strength of the body. Bone pain or tenderness is a relatively less common condition, as compared to muscle pain. It is more commonly associated with an injury, like fracture.

But sometimes, it can occur due to a wide range conditions, some of which can be really serious. The pain can also be so debilitating at times, that it can affect the quality of life by restricting the movement of the patients, or changing their gait. Bone pain usually emanates from the bone tissues.

Causes of Bone Pain

Injury or Trauma

The most obvious and common reason of aching bone is an injury, which in most cases is a fracture or a hairline fracture. A fracture, as we all know, is a really painful occurrence and is the worst thing a bone can go through. Sometimes, even if it is not a fracture, an injury which has a major impact on the bone and the surrounding tissues, can cause pain.


Osteomyelitis is the medical term for infection of the bone and bone marrow, which is usually caused by bacteria. The infection can spread to the bones through the bloodstream or the surrounding tissues. Sometimes, the infection can start in the bone itself, especially if the bone gets exposed to germs, due to an injury. The infection can cause inflammation of the bone and bone marrow, and produce deep and severe bone pain.


Osteomalacia refers to the softening of bones, which can occur due to the deficiency of vitamin D and calcium. In children, this condition is usually referred as rickets. Osteomalacia is usually characterized by a dull, aching pain in the bones, more commonly in the bones of the legs, hips, pelvis, lower spine, and ribs. It can also cause muscle weakness.


Osteoporosis refers to thinning or loss of bone density. The bones become so brittle and weak due to osteoporosis, that the risk for fractures increases considerably. Osteoporosis is one of the common conditions associated with aching bones. Women are more likely to get affected by this condition after menopause.

Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited condition, which is characterized by the production of sticky and rigid, sickle-shaped red blood cells, that tend to get stuck in the small blood vessels. This condition can impair the flow of blood and oxygen to different parts of the body and cause pain in bones, joints, chests, and abdomen.


Both primary malignancy and metastatic malignancy can cause bone pain. Primary malignancy refers to cancer that develops in the bone itself, while metastatic malignancy is the cancer that develops in other parts of the body and then spread to the bones. Pain caused by cancer can be quite intense and severe. Leukemia can also cause bone pain or tenderness, as this cancer affects the bone marrow cells, which are concerned with the production of blood cells. Sometimes, certain chemotherapy drugs used for treating breast cancer may cause bone pain too.


Osteoarthritis is characterized by a degeneration of the cartilage, found on the ends of bones in various joints of the body. This condition can damage the joints, which can result in bone and joint pain.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

It is an autoimmune disorder, that usually affects the small joints of the hands and feet in the early stage. Later on, other joints of the body, such as the knee joint, ankles, elbows, and hip joint, can get affected. Rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling of the lining of these joints, that can eventually lead to erosion of the bones and joint deformity. Along with joint pain, it can cause swelling of the joints, fatigue, fever, and formation of nodules under the skin.

Lupus Disease

Lupus is another autoimmune disease, that can affect any part of the body. The immune system attacks the cells and tissues of the body, including the joints. Joint pain, stiffness and swelling, are some of the symptoms of this chronic inflammatory disease.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium 'Borrelia burgdorferi', which can be spread by deer ticks. It is one of the common tick-borne illnesses. Joint pain and swelling are some of the later signs and symptoms of this disease, that the affected individual may experience.

Paget's Disease of Bone

It is a chronic disorder, that is known to impair the normal process of replacing old bone tissues with new tissues. This condition causes excessive breakdown and formation of bone tissues, which can eventually result in bone enlargement and deformity. The affected bones weaken over a period of time.


Fibromyalgia is another common cause of musculoskeletal pain and is more prevalent among women. Along with muscle and bone pain, the affected individual can experience fatigue, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.


Gout is characterized by the recurrent episodes of intense pain, tenderness, and redness of the joints, especially the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout is more common among men. However, the risk for developing gout increases in women after menopause.

Common Causes of Bone Pain in Children

In children, bone and joint pain can be more commonly associated with conditions, like lupus, lyme disease, osteomyelitis, acute leukemia, osteosarcoma, septic arthritis, synovitis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and toddler fracture.

Treatment for Bone Pain

Diagnosis of bone pain usually involves a careful study of the nature and location of the pain, and the associated symptoms. Several physical examinations, such as bone X-ray, bone scan, CT or MRI scan, blood studies, urine studies, and hormone level studies, can also be required to find out the exact cause of bone pain. Normally, pain relievers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed by physicians, to manage bone pain and swelling.

Bone pain caused by cancer can be quite severe, which may require the administration of opioids, such as morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, methadone, and fentanyl. Antibiotics are given, if the pain is associated with infections. For osteoporosis, physicians usually recommend bisphosphonates and hormone therapy, while for osteomalacia, supplements of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate, may be required. For malignant bone pain, one of the most commonly used treatment option is radiotherapy. Radiotherapy has been observed to be quite effective in controlling the debilitating bone pain, caused by cancer.

So, the treatment for bone pain is solely determined by its cause. As some of the conditions that can cause bone pain are really serious, it should not be ignored or neglected. It is better to consult a health care provider, especially if you experience bone pain continuously.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.