Bone pain, which affects the joints but also tendons and ligaments, or muscles. Discomfort to the neck, spine and back muscles, knees, just to name a few examples. A widespread pain, which has affected us at least once in our lives, at different ages, and to which we often fail to give a cause. In some cases it passes after a short time, in others it even becomes chronic, affecting daily life and even the mood.

Dr. Stefano Respizzi, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Functional Recovery in Humanitas, talked about it in an interview with Radio24.

Skeletal and muscular pain: how to choose the right specialist?

Very often, patients are confused in front of the skeletal and muscular pain: the figures and the specialists who deal with them are different, but obviously with different functions and competences.

Choosing the right specialist for your condition is the first step towards the right diagnosis and treatment.

The physiatrist is the rehabilitation specialist,” explained Dr. Respizzi, “who is responsible for the functional recovery of patients. This rehabilitation involves various fields: besides orthopedics, also neurology and cardiorespiratory field. It is a great team work that foresees a synergy action and different professional skills so that each one does its best part for the recovery of the patient”.

“Orthopedic surgeons, on the other hand, are surgeons, so their approach and expertise are oriented towards surgery, which in some cases and for some diseases is essential, but in most cases is not the case for skeletal-muscular pain and the treatment on which you can focus is conservative”, concluded Dr. Respizzi.

Muscle pain and joint pain: the differences

Muscle pain can be caused by a variety of causes: injury, trauma, intense physical exercise, wear and tear, or poor posture. “It manifests itself with a generally widespread pain involving the muscles and if it is due to excessive stress or too much physical exercise it tends to disappear in a few days. “Joint pain is typically what you feel when you load the joint, in a very localized way and can be felt not only during exercise and movement but also at rest.

In some cases joint and muscle pain can also be related to the climate, “because our body reacts to external temperatures in a different way – explained the physiatrist -: usually the rheumatic patient has a hypersensitivity of the ‘locomotor system, then on bones and ligaments and feels more pain. For these patients, for example, it would be enough to stay in environments with a hot and dry climate”.

Is it better to be warm or cold in order to relieve the pain?

Ice is recommended in case of bone trauma but should be used consciously: “ice should be used in the acute phase of pain – clarified the doctor – for about 6-7 days, 20 minutes two or three times a day. It is important that the skin is not in direct contact with the frozen part, but protected by a cloth. If used for too long and directly on the skin, there is a risk of stains on the skin or even burns.

Heat, on the other hand, is indicated in cases of muscle pain, even chronic, because it relaxes the muscles and helps to relax, also changing the perception of pain: examples are a good hot shower, the heat of the heater, the hot water bag up to the heating patches that act by spreading heat in a localized way where they are applied.”

When the pain becomes chronic

When joint or muscle pain becomes prolonged over time, it is very important to consult a specialist: chronic pain affects not only the body, but also the mind, involving the emotional and mood spheres: the brain is constantly on alert and receives continuous impulses from the system of ‘pain’ and ‘negative’ from the nervous system. “The advice – explains Dr. Respizzi – is to use, on medical prescription, products in order to try to stop the constant pain otherwise you enter a negative loop that is also dangerous from the behavioral and emotional point of view”. Since it is not possible to take painkillers, fans or cortisone for too long, “there are products such as hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, chondroitin and other substances that have protective action: these are substances already present in our body that actually help to reduce pain and prevent the brain from registering as constant this condition.

It is also essential, not only for those suffering from chronic pain but also for hardened sedentaries, who suffer from pain due to a muscular ‘weakness’ and inactivity of the body, “it is physical exercise, moderate, gradual and controlled, such as stretching, cycling, treadmills, walking, all aerobic activities with low impact but that make sure that the body is stimulated both at the articular level of the muscles and at the cardiovascular level”.

Do patches work?

For muscular and skeletal pains there are two types of plasters: “those with heat have the only function of heating, while the medicated plasters have inside anti-inflammatory or analgesic, which penetrates only the area concerned and acts in a localized way. Obviously – the doctor warns – it does not do miracles because the capacity of subcutaneous penetration is modest. It is a low impact action compared to a product taken by mouth or muscle,” concluded Respizzi.