Muscle or joint pain: what’s the difference?

Over half of the world’s population suffers from muscle or joint pain. Cervical and lumbar back pain top the list, but any one of the 400 joints in our body can easily be affected. Let’s find out the differences between muscle and joint pain.

Maybe it’s your back, or maybe your knees: muscle and joint pains are a part of everyday life. According to the Global Pain Index, a periodic report published by GSK, over four billion people – equal to 56% of the world population – suffer from muscle or joint pain every week; in Italy, there are about 35 million people – equal to 58% of the population – who experience musculoskeletal pain every week, including the most common form: classic back pain (in either the cervical or lumbar region).

Muscle pain usually affects a fairly large area of the body, and is linked to a range of causes that includes small injuries, sprains, and incorrect postures. Joint pain is often more localised, and affects the joints between bones – such as the shoulder, elbow, knee, hip or ankle. Let’s find out the differences between the two.

Muscle pain or myalgia

Muscle pain, also known as myalgia, often corresponds to a form of widespread and recurrent tension of the muscles, and can be due to various daily accidents such as injuries and trauma, or can arise following a session of intense physical activity that simply knocked us out. Strenuous jobs or prolonged incorrect posture can also be the origin of this common complication. Usually, if pain is the direct consequence of an excessive solicitation or exaggerated activity, it tends to disappear in a few days.

Joints, an easy target

There are no less than 400 joints in our body. It’s easy for one of them to get bruised or hurt if it has to bear a disproportionate load. Joint pain is typically very localised, and present not only during exercise and movement but also while at rest. The causes of joint pain are divided into three categories: inflammation or infection, wear of the cartilage, and injuries caused by a bump or fall. Symptoms of joint pain include lack of flexibility, stiffness of the affected part, and sometimes redness and swelling.

Arnica, a natural ally against pain

To relieve muscle and joint pain, traditional medicine has counted on a natural ally for centuries: arnica, a medicinal plant, has proved to be an effective product to counter these daily annoyances. The anti-fatigue and soothing action of arnica is well known – and can be boosted by adding other natural substances such as devil’s claw.

But arnica can also be used to prevent the onset of musculoskeletal pain: used before exercise or sports, it helps muscles warm up and improves physical efficiency, protecting the body from trauma or muscle overloads that may occur while training.

Consult a specialist in case of chronic pain

When joint or muscle pain lasts for a long time, consulting a specialist is recommended. In addition to physical discomfort, pain has an impact on our emotions and mood: so in the long run, suffering through affliction is not good for the brain either. Indeed, experts have identified a negative feedback loop amongst the direct results of chronic pain, with dangerous consequences also in terms of behaviour.

Moderate sport: a stimulus against pain

Physical activity is a cure-all both for hopeless sedentary people, who often suffer from pain related to inactivity, and for anyone with chronic pain. To prevent these annoying ailments, moderate, gradual and controlled exercise – such as stretching, walking, using a stationary bike or a treadmill – is a burst of health. These are all low-impact aerobic activities that positively stimulate the body both at the joint and muscle level and at the cardiovascular level.

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