Muscle pain and joint pain are commonly mistaken as one since the source and the type of pain are almost the same; however, it should be noted that these two discomforts are separate entities although they may occur along with the other.

Muscles and joints are all parts of the musculoskeletal system so the presence of muscle pain and joint pain may occur simultaneously depending on the cause or area affected. In the joints, the ligaments attach the two bones together to form the articulation between the two bones (the joint) while the tendons attach the muscles to the bones to serve as innervations to the bones and allow the skeletal system to move. In most of the joints, the muscles are attached near the joint itself making it a joint complex. It is in this phenomenon that leads someone with a joint pain to feel muscle pain as well or vice versa.

Nevertheless, there are certain conditions when you only have one set of pain, which is either muscle or joint pain.

To determine whether what you are feeling is a muscle or joint pain, here are the general comparisons as well as similarities of the two conditions:

Causes of Muscle and Joint Pain

The presence of ‘strains’ are more muscular in nature wherein the muscles are pulled resulting to tearing or inflammation. A strained muscle is commonly due to overuse injury or tension from a physically demanding work, exercise or wrong body mechanics. On the other hand, a ‘sprain’ is more of a joint disorder wherein the ligaments are torn or injured leading to the swelling and pain in the affected joint. Sprains are also caused by overuse injury of a particular joint and some may be caused by direct blow to the joint itself leading to the tearing of the soft structures around it. The main difference between a muscle and joint pain is the root cause of the condition. Muscle pain is cause mainly by strains while joint pains are caused by strains.

Characteristics of the Symptoms

Another difference of muscle and joint pain is the characteristic of the symptoms. In muscle pain, there is a dull, heavy ache on the affected muscle while joint pains may involve sharp and a tearing sensation inside the joint. Muscle pains may only involve swelling of the affected muscle because of the affectation of the blood flow while joint pains may occur with ecchymosis or hematoma formation in the joint itself. Joint pains are also accompanied by inflammation and swelling, which visibly enlarges a joint capsule in some instances.

Muscle and joint pain can have similar characteristics. These include tenderness over the site of injury and reduced ability to move the affected part. For instance, when you feel knee pain, you may have difficulty extending or flexing the knee. This is also true for muscle pain in the thighs and calf muscles. You tend to have reduced mobility of the affected leg because of the inability of the affected muscles to pull the leg for ambulation.

Treatments for Muscle and Joint Pain

The management options for both conditions may also have similarities and differences. For instance, muscle and joint pains are relieved initially by cold packs to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. Following the acute stage of injury, warm packs are placed to relax the soft structures and promote pain relief. The two discomfits are also relieved by anti-inflammatory medications in the form of NSAIDs or over-the-counter analgesics.

Despite the similarities, muscle pains and joint pains require separate treatments to complete the recovery. Muscle pains or strains can be relieved directly by massaging the area affected; however, in joint pains, massage may only relieve some sort of pain, but it will not repair the torn or injured ligament, synovial sac and the like.

Muscle pain and joint pain seem to be the same especially when you experience them simultaneously. If you are unsure about what you have, better consult a health practitioner to have accurate diagnosis and treatment.