8 Possible Causes of Bone Pain

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN on August 5, 2021
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    Bone Pain Causes: Fractures to Cancer
    Bone pain isn’t as common as joint pain or muscle pain, but it can be a sign of a serious injury or condition. Bone pain can be aching or quite intense, depending on the cause. Many people with acute bone pain, often from a fracture, become nauseated because of the intensity of the pain. But whether you are experiencing bone tenderness or acute pain, see a doctor to investigate the underlying cause. Learn more about the most common causes of bone pain and when the pain may be an emergency.
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    1. Fractures (Breaks)
    A bone fracture, or broken bone, is the most obvious cause of bone pain. A fracture could be the result of an accident or fall, or it could be spontaneous, as in a stress fracture. People with osteoporosis are at higher risk for breaking bones because their bones are more fragile. If you suspect you have a broken bone, go to an emergency department as soon as possible. An untreated fracture can cause serious complications and it may not heal properly.
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    2. Osteomyelitis (Bone Infection)
    Osteomyelitis isn’t common, but it does affect about 2 out of every 10,000 people in the United States. It can affect adults, who most commonly develop the infection in their vertebrae or pelvis, and children, who most often get the infection at the ends of their arm or leg bones. Osteomyelitis may occur after a broken bone, from bacteria in the bloodstream, or from an open wound that became infected and progressed into the bone. Symptoms include bone tenderness or pain, fever, nausea, and swelling or redness around the area.
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    3. Sickle Cell Anemia
    Blood diseases like sickle cell anemia can block blood flow in the blood vessels. These blockages can cause bone pain. People with sickle cell anemia may have a few or many episodes. The bone pain can be very intense; it is called a crisis. Those experiencing a pain crisis often need to be hospitalized to stabilize the pain. Doctors use strong analgesics, like opioids, and other treatments, such as blood transfusions. The bone pain may last only a few hours or take weeks to resolve.
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    4. Bone Cancer
    Researchers estimate that each year, about 3,500 U.S. adults and children are diagnosed with bone cancer. There are several types of bone cancer, including chondrosarcoma, chordoma, osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. Bone cancer symptoms can include bone pain, but it’s not unusual for bone cancer to be detected after someone has broken a bone. Bone cancer weakens your bones and makes them susceptible to fractures. When an X-ray is done for the fracture, the radiologist may detect abnormalities that could be related to bone cancer.
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    5. Blood Cancer
    Some types of cancer, like leukemia, lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes, and myeloma can all cause bone pain, most often in the arms, legs and ribs. The pain results from the cancerous cells gathering in the bone marrow. For some people, bone pain is the first noticeable symptom of the disease. As you receive treatment for the cancer, the bone pain may lessen or go away completely. Blood cancers can also make your bones weaker, leading to osteoporosis and fragile bones.
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    6. Cancer Treatment
    Cancer treatments often include strong medications that can have several, sometimes severe, side effects or complications. Bone pain is one such side effect for some people who are treated with chemotherapy, such as nab-paclitaxel, docetaxel, or methotrexate; hormonal therapy like raloxifene and tamoxifen; and targeted therapies, like trastuzumab/hyaluronidase-osk and olaparib. Bisphosphonates, given to people with osteoporosis also can cause bone pain. If you are receiving such treatments, tell your healthcare provider about any and all unusual symptoms you experience.
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    7. Post-chemotherapy Treatment
    Chemotherapy to treat cancer weakens your immune system by depleting your white blood cells. These are the cells that help you fight infections. A weak immune system makes it easier for you to develop infections and related complications. Oncologists may prescribe the medication filgrastim to patients after each treatment session to stimulate white blood cell growth. The medication is administered by injection or intravenously (IV). One of the side effects of filgrastim, affecting more than 30% of patients, is bone pain, which can range from uncomfortable to very painful. Oncologists prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories as well as the antihistamine loratadine (Claritin) for bone pain.
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    8. Tailbone Pain
    Tailbone pain, also called coccydynia or coccygodynia, is a common pain with many possible causes, from falling on your backside to sitting too long on a hard seat. Even vaginal childbirth can cause tailbone pain. In most cases, the pain isn’t serious and will go away on its own. If taking over-the-counter pain killers, applying ice to the tailbone area, and sitting on soft cushions doesn’t help, contact your doctor. You may need an X-ray, physical therapy, and stronger pain-relieving options until the area heals.
8 Possible Causes of Bone Pain & Tenderness

About The Author

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, has been writing health information for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience writing about health issues like sepsis, cancer, mental health issues, and women’s health. She is also author of the book Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Medications and How to Take Them Safely.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 5
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.