Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are conditions that can affect your muscles, bones, and joints. MSDs include:

MSDs are common. And your risk of developing them increases with age.

The severity of MSDs can vary. In some cases, they cause pain and discomfort that interferes with everyday activities. Early diagnosis and treatment may help ease symptoms and improve long-term outlook.

Symptoms of MSDs can include:

  • recurrent pain
  • stiff joints
  • swelling
  • dull aches

They can affect any major area of your musculoskeletal system, including the following:

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • wrists
  • back
  • hips
  • legs
  • knees
  • feet

In some cases, the symptoms of MSDs interfere with everyday activities like walking or typing. You may develop a limited range of motion or have trouble completing routine tasks.

Your risk of developing MSDs is affected by:

  • age
  • occupation
  • activity level
  • lifestyle
  • family history

Certain activities can cause wear and tear on your musculoskeletal system, leading to MSDs. These include:

  • sitting in the same position at a computer every day
  • engaging in repetitive motions
  • lifting heavy weights
  • maintaining poor posture at work

Your treatment plan will vary depending on the cause of your symptoms. So it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of an MSD, make an appointment with your doctor. To diagnose your condition, they’ll likely perform a physical exam. They will check for:

  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • muscle weakness
  • muscle atrophy

They may also test your reflexes. Unusual reflexes may indicate nerve damage.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans. These tests can help them examine your bones and soft tissues. They may also order blood tests to check for rheumatic diseases, such as RA.

Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on your diagnosis and the severity of your symptoms.

To address occasional pain, they may suggest moderate exercise and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. For more severe symptoms, they may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and pain. In some cases, they may recommend physical therapy, occupational therapy, or both.

These therapies can help you learn how to manage your pain and discomfort, maintain your strength and range of motion, and adjust your everyday activities and environments.

Your risk of developing MSDs increases with age. Your muscles, bones, and joints naturally deteriorate as you get older. But that doesn’t mean that MSDs are inevitable. By taking care of your body throughout adulthood, you can lower your risk of developing these disorders.

It’s crucial to develop healthy lifestyle habits now. Regular strengthening exercises and stretching can help keep your bones, joints, and muscles strong. It’s also important to complete everyday activities in safe ways. Maintain a tall posture to prevent back pain, be careful when picking up heavy objects, and try to keep repetitive motions to a minimum.

Ask your doctor for more information about how you can maintain a healthy musculoskeletal system and lower your risk of MSDs.