Understanding Musculoskeletal Disorders

September 5th, 2019 Becki Andrus

What Are Musculoskeletal Disorders

You have probably seen and heard the term musculoskeletal disorder and you may already understand what these two words encompass. However, it might be beneficial to define the term and provide a more detailed look at the various health issues that fall within its umbrella.

Musculoskeletal disorders are also referred to as MSDs, and they are a collection of health conditions that impact your joints, bones, muscles. tendons, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, and discs. In some cases, these issues are related to injuries, while they can also be the result of disorders that can develop due to our lack of physical activity, how we use our bodies, and how our systems function throughout the aging process.

Some of the specific issues that are included in this category are conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis,
osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, muscular dystrophy, lupus, and various degenerative conditions that can emerge with the back. But that select group presents just a percentage from the overall list of issues that can be considered as MSDs.

Many of the individual conditions that can be categorized as musculoskeletal disorders have been examined specifically in previous articles, while others will be featured in future discussions. However, this particular article will review the factors that this collection of health problems have in common. That will include the causes, and symptoms, how and when medical assistance can be beneficial, and what types of treatments can relieve the discomfort and (in some cases) improve the disorders themselves.


MSDs are common, and there are multiple reasons why they can occur. Sometimes it is simply the accumulation of wear-and-tear from a lifetime of daily activities. In other cases, it is the result of a traumatic event such as an automobile accident, a fall, or any type of sudden motion that results in a sprain, fracture or dislocation.

In other situations, an MSD can develop due to prolonged sitting in the workplace, or through remaining stationary for extended periods of time in situations that are away from work.

Frequent heavy lifting both inside and outside the workplace can also lead to certain MSDs, as can repetitive motion from sports or other activities that create stress within various points within the body.

A family history of MSDs can also be a factor, as can the aging process. According to the American Academy Of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), over one of every two individuals in the U.S. over the age of 18 are impacted by musculoskeletal diseases, and these conditions also affect nearly 75% of people 65 years of age or older.

As more Americans progress through the aging process, musculoskeletal diseases will continue to escalate in terms of numbers and their ongoing physical impact for the people involved. However, the AAOS has also noted that the number of individuals that are impacted by MSDs between the ages of 45 and 64 rose from nearly 29% (21.8 million persons) between 1996- 1998 to around 38% (40.7 million persons) between 2012 and 2014.      

According to the AAOS, the largest number of symptoms and complaints that involve visits to doctors were related to the knee, followed by the back, shoulder, foot, and hand.


The symptoms of musculoskeletal pain can vary based upon the specific cause of the issue. The discomfort can also spread from one joint or muscle region to a wider area of the body depending upon why it occurred in the first place.

Injuries are included among the various reasons why pain might occur, and this is often the reason for discomfort in the ligaments and tendons. This is also true of pain in the joints and bones. Discomfort can also be triggered by infection or improper blood flow.

In addition to pain, people with musculoskeletal disorders can also experience aching, stiffness, twitching muscles, fatigue, swelling, and a burning sensation. Sometimes, the overall impact of discomfort can also create problems with sleeping.

When To Visit A Doctor

If you are contending any of the symptoms that were just described, then it is recommended that you schedule a visit with a physician. This is the case regardless of whether your issues are occurring in your shoulders, back, neck, hand, wrists, hips, legs, knees or feet. Any degree of difficulty with regular activities such as walking should also prompt a visit to your doctor, as should any loss in your range of motion.

Treatments For Musculoskeletal Disorders

If you are being confronted with one of the specific conditions that are contained within the umbrella of musculoskeletal diseases, there are varying degrees of treatment that are available when you visit a physician for your specific issue.

Your doctor will ask a series of questions concerning your current situation and your medical history, as part of the overall attempt to determine the origin of your discomfort. He or she might also conduct an examination that could include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and blood tests.

Once your doctor has utilized all of this information toward providing a diagnosis, then he or she will develop an individual treatment plan. It is possible that a form of physical and occupational therapy will be recommended. Exercise is also beneficial with some of the MSDs as it not only assists with the discomfort but can also provide a boost to your strength.

Your doctor might also suggest medications to decrease inflammation and discomfort. This certainly applies to individuals who are dealing with fibromyalgia, as medication can raise the serotonin levels and bolster at the immune system.

Anti-inflammatory injections could also be recommended following diagnosis, as can the application of heat or ice. Rest might also be the preferred treatment, which will allow the area that is impacted to improve.

Orthopedic Associates, We Are Here To Help

At Orthopedic Associates, we want you to enjoy your daily activities. That includes sustaining good health before, during, and after involvement with any type of work, exercise or additional activities that you prefer. If you encounter discomfort, illness, injury, or have a concern about anything that might keep you from being involved in any activity, we are here to assist you. Our ultimate objective is always for you to experience pain-free participation in the activities and lifestyle that you enjoy.  

That is why Orthopedic Associates offers a full spectrum of musculoskeletal care, along with in-house physical sports therapy, and state-of-the-art-technology including our digital imaging and open MRI, and an on-site surgical center for more patient convenience.

Our board-certified doctors have been practicing medicine for a combined total of 183 years. This includes expertise in sports medicine, through which our physicians provide personalized care for a broad range of sports-related injuries.

In addition to the services that we provide that are related to Sports Medicine and In-House Imaging, our physicians are always available to utilize their knowledge to help you should you require joint replacement, or arthroscopic surgery, while our specialists are also here to assist with physical therapy, rehabilitation, and orthopedic trauma.

We encourage you to visit one of our Orthopedic Associates two locations or request an appointment today to be on your way to feeling better.

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