About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 
Home Print this page Email this page Users Online: 27

 Table of Contents  
REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-5

Musculoskeletal pain in athletes: A narrative review


Department of Medical Rehabilitation, College of Applied Medical Sciences, King Khalid University, Abha, Saudi Arabia

Date of Submission06-Dec-2019
Date of Decision12-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance15-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication16-May-2020

Correspondence Address:
Mastour Saeed Alshahrani
Department of Medical Rehabilitation, College of Applied Medical Sciences, King Khalid University, Abha
Saudi Arabia
Login to access the Email id


DOI: 10.4103/sjsm.sjsm_17_19

Rights and Permissions
  Abstract 


Musculoskeletal pain is a major concern in athletes, and its associated disability may contribute to a significant loss of productivity and substantial health-care expenditure. Musculoskeletal pain and disability represent a considerable health burden in the athletic world. Acute musculoskeletal pain generally lasts for a shorter time. The recurrences are frequent. Early intervention and the management of acute pain may reduce the chance of developing it into chronic. Clinical assessment comprising subjective and objective examination is essential to identify the clinical features of severe but rare causes of acute musculoskeletal pain. In most of the clinical conditions, it is difficult to determine the precise cause and management of musculoskeletal pains in the athletic population. Interventions such as manual therapy, electrotherapy modalities, exercises, and active lifestyle maintenance are found to be effective in the management of acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Keywords: Musculoskeletal pain, physical therapy, rehabilitation, sport


How to cite this article:
Alshahrani MS. Musculoskeletal pain in athletes: A narrative review. Saudi J Sports Med 2019;19:1-5

How to cite this URL:
Alshahrani MS. Musculoskeletal pain in athletes: A narrative review. Saudi J Sports Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Oct 29];19:1-5. Available from: https://www.sjosm.org/text.asp?2019/19/1/1/284305








  Introduction Top


Musculoskeletal pain and injuries are prevailing in sports where athletes are required to perform at high-intensity activities for more extended periods.[1] In the short term, musculoskeletal pain may significantly impair the athletes' performance, which can lead to unwanted time off from practice and competitive tournaments.[2] Various authors have seen an association between training load, musculoskeletal pain, and performance.[3],[4] These results indicate that an athlete may experience musculoskeletal pain are injured from both too low- and high-training loads.[5]

Electronic sports (E-sports) are gaining the importance in recent days, as they are known as competitive gaming. Hamari and Sjöblom defined this as “sports facilitated by electronic systems by the input by players.”[6] There are only a few data on musculoskeletal pain in E-sports. In a previous study with 65 participants showed that 41 percent of participants reported neck and back pain, similar to athletes from traditional endurance sport.[6],[7] As such, musculoskeletal pain in E-sports may be associated with training load and frequency, as seen in other games.[7]

Musculoskeletal pain arises from the various regions of the body. All the structure's muscles, ligaments, bones, joints, or any soft tissue can contribute to musculoskeletal pain.[8] It can be acute with or without irritability, and sometimes, the pains can progress to chronic in nature.[9] It may be limited to localize to one area, or it can spread to distal regions or distant areas along with the dermatomal or myotomal referral pattern.[10] The common musculoskeletal disorders in athletes include neck pain, upper, and lower back.[10] The conditions such as myalgia pain, tendinitis, tendonitis, sprains, strains, and fractures are also common. Compared to males, females present with more musculoskeletal symptoms, with an estimated prevalence of 62%.[10]

Pathophysiology

Pains of acute nature usually occur from sprains, strains, fractures, and dislocations, predominantly due to macrotrauma with excitation of nociceptors within the involved tissues.[11] Pains may also occur due to microtrauma injuries, and the symptoms will be seen after a prolonged period of exposure of a tissue to either overuse or misuse. In some athletes, pain may be idiopathic.[11] Muscle pain can be local or referred in the distal direction.[12]

Causes

Not all the time, but any athlete can undergo musculoskeletal pains. All structures such as muscles, capsules, nerves, fascia, bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments can result in musculoskeletal pain.[13] Overuse injuries are common and affect 33% of adults.[14] In western society, low back pain is a common work-related condition due to overuse.[14] Musculoskeletal pains also arise due to prolonged immobilization or poor posture.

Area of pain

Participants presenting to the clinic with musculoskeletal pain generally show with 18 separate pain regions.[15] The neck and back are the most common sites followed by knee and hip pains in athletes. The neck and back pain can contribute around 31%, 25% of knee pain, 20% of hip pain, and 15% of shoulder pain.[15]

Type of pain

The type of tissue involved in injury generally exhibits the type of pain. The most common structure at fault is a muscle, and it presents with local dull-aching pain. It is felt either superficial or deep, depending on the location of the muscle. The muscle contributes typically to 50% of pains in athletes, and muscle refers pains distally along the dermatome of myotomal patterns.[15] Neuropathic pain also significantly contributes to musculoskeletal pain. Neuropathic pains usually present with intense and long-lasting pain. Neuropathic pain has high irritability and contributes to 29% of all musculoskeletal pains.[15] Mixed pain patters are uncommon and present both local and referred patterns.[15]

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the type of tissue involved and the injury or friction and the kind of pain (acute or chronic). The presenting symptoms vary from athlete to athlete. Common musculoskeletal symptoms include local or referred pain, fatigue, stiffness or aching pain, twitching in the muscles, sleep disturbances, and the sensation of “burning” in muscles.[15]

Types

Different participants present with varying musculoskeletal signs and symptoms. It has diverse symptoms and causes. Athletes with bone pain usually present with dull, penetrating, or profound.[15] Muscle pain is regularly occurring after a soft-tissue injury, an autoimmune response, infection, tumor, or any decrease in blood supply to the muscle. The muscle pains are associated with cramps and spasms.[15] If it is tendon injury, it is called a strain, and if it is ligament injury, it is called a sprain. These are the most painful when they are stretched or elongated. Some athletes present with fibromyalgia symptoms with multiple areas of pain in muscles, tendons, or ligaments and are challenging to describe the type of pain.[15] Inflammation of joints will lead to pain, swelling, redness, and increased local joint temperature in athletes. The pain intensity does depend on the severity of injury or degeneration. Carpal tunnel or tarsal tunnel syndromes are also common presentations due to nerve compressions. The nerve pain presents as shooting or burning along the course of the nerve.[15]


  Diagnostic Criteria Top


Assessing the pain intensity and area of involvement and absence of any underlying pathology confirms the diagnosis of musculoskeletal pain. Any signs of inflammation with pain, swelling, increased temperature is the feature of any musculoskeletal injury.[15] The assessment also should focus on excluding serious pathologies such as a tumor, cancer, Paget's disease, infection, and myeloma. Physical therapy assessment should focus on eliminating the signs of systemic illness, lumps, and exquisite tenderness.[16] Radiological imaging is rarely required or indicated, as it shows nothing in specific. Computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging has indicated subjects who reveal red flags during the assessment.[16],[17]


  Management Top


Musculoskeletal pain in athletes best managed by concentrating on the overall cause. It will depend on which structure is which is responsible for the presentation and severity of pain such as muscle, tendon, and bone.[18] Different treatment strategies are in place such as heat, cold, manual therapy, change in intensity of workload or training, immobilization, reducing stress, biofeedback, cortisone injections, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID's), stretching, massage, strengthening, endurance, aerobic, and conditioning exercises.[18],[19],[20],[21] Athletes with fibromyalgia treated with medications that will focus on increasing the serotonin-norepinephrine levels in the body. Usually, opioids and NSAIDs are prescribed if the pain intensity is high.


  Evidence Top


The assessment and evidence-based management for the diagnosis play a vital role in rehabilitation. Level of evidence assessing the quality of evidence with ranking and hierarchy are associated with different study designs that have contributed to the evidence base. The level of evidence is summarized in [Table 1].
Table 1: Levels of evidence

Click here to view


Available evidence suggests exercise therapy; electrotherapy combined with manual therapy is an effective means of combatting athletes with musculoskeletal pains. Different conditions such as neck pain, back pain, ankle sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome, knee osteoarthritis, and hip osteoarthritis are effectively treated with the use of the holistic approach. Different techniques and outcomes are summarized in [Table 2], and the interventions with their evidence in health-care rehabilitation are illustrated in [Table 3]. The evidence is according to the Australian Acute Musculoskeletal Pain Guidelines Group guidelines.[22]
Table 2: Therapeutic intervention techniques with their desired outcomes

Click here to view
Table 3: Different interventions to treat musculoskeletal pain with their level of evidence

Click here to view



  Recent Advances in Treating Musculoskeletal Pain in Sports Top


Shock-wave therapy

Extracorporeal shock-wave therapy is a noninvasive technique and used in treating chronic musculoskeletal conditions such as tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis.[23] It focuses on the specific internal structure at fault and gives shock waves to the internal structure. Shock-wave technology is previously used to treat patients with kidney stones, and the technique is called lithotripsy. The waves created by shock-wave machines generally produce microtrauma and hyperemia in the involved tissues that promote neovascularization and thereby facilitate healing in the chronic nonhealing tissues.[23]

Eccentric exercises

These types of exercises in rehabilitation, in an aim to restore muscle function at the earliest in terms of time. These are effective and progressed in the albescence of pain in different conditions as chronic tendinopathies.[24],[25],[28],[29] Stergioulas et al. used eccentric exercises along with LASER in subjects with Achilles tendinitis. They reported that outcome measures such as morning stiffness, active dorsiflexion, palpation tenderness, and crepitation significantly improved following intervention.[24] Sayana and Maffulli showed that participants with Achilles tendinopathy who received eccentric exercises along with strengthening exercises for 12 weeks improved in pain and disability scores.[25] Friedmann-Bette et al. reported strength training, along with eccentric overload, showed superior outcomes compared to others in normal athletes.[30]

Platelet-rich plasma therapy

This new technique is developed, aiming to restore soft-tissue injuries using subjects own blood using the centrifugation method.[31] Through a thorough process, they separate the platelets of the injures person's blood, and the platelets are then injected into the injured region. This technique will facilitate the growth factors and promote fibroblasts at the wounded site and thereby facilitate healing at the injured site.[26],[31] Different studies showed improvement in tendon following the application of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) with platelet-alpha granules in tendon regeneration.[27],[32] de Vos et al. examined the effect of PRP injection on chronic Achilles tendinopathy and showed great improvement in pain and activity scores in comparison to control groups.[33] Filardo et al. conducted a study to examine the efficacy of multiple PRP injections for 2 weeks in participants with chronic refractory patellar tendinopathy. There were statistically significant improvements in Tegner, EQ-Visual Analog Scale, and pain level outcome measures after the PRP therapy, which showed the potential benefits of PRP to promote the achievement of satisfactory clinical outcomes in participants with musculoskeletal pains.[34]

Prolotherapy

This advanced technology used in chronic tendon, ligament, fascial, and joint capsule injuries.[26] This procedure involves injecting hypertonic dextrose or similar solutions to the involved structures to cause entheses and strengthening the structure by collagen laydown and proliferation, thereby strengthening the structure with hypertrophy.[23] Athletes experience pain while performing this technique. Yildiz et al. conducted a study to see the effects of prolotherapy (in recreational athletes with patellofemoral pain syndrome. This study results showed that balance, coordination, and knee functional scores improved significantly compared to the control group after three injections in 21 days.[35] Reeves et al. stated that prolotherapy is the evidence-based regenerative injection therapy efficiently used in sports to accelerate the performance.[36] Rabago et al. proved that prolotherapy, along with alternative medicine, is very effective in dealing with participants with musculoskeletal pains.[26] There is a strong evidence to use prolotherapy in conditions such as osteoarthritis, chronic tendonitis, and low back pain.[26]


  Conclusions and Future Research Top


Musculoskeletal pain in athletes is short-lived if active management is instituted. The rehabilitation of athletes should focus in decreasing pain and inflammation in the first phase, increase the range, mobility and strength of the athlete in the second phase, enhance aerobic capacity, improve balance and proprioception in the third phase, and should focus in sport-specific drills or functional progression in the last or the fourth phase. The phases of rehabilitation in older ages may be time taking compared younger athletes and Grade 1 injury subjects return to sports earlier compared to Grade 3 injuries athletes. There has been excellent knowledge nowadays in understanding the pathophysiology of injury and inflammation, thereby effective means of strategies in rehabilitation so that the athlete returns to sports at the earliest. Using steroids to combat this problem is of no great importance. Reliable imaging techniques such as computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging may guide the clinical therapist to make an adequate diagnosis and see the prognosis in musculoskeletal conditions. Effective therapeutic interventions should aim to facilitate healing and tissue regeneration and thereby improve athletic performance.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Weisenthal BM, Beck CA, Maloney MD, DeHaven KE, Giordano BD. Injury rate and patterns among crossfit athletes. Orthop J Sports Med 2014;2:1-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Dick RW, Berning JR, Dawson W, Ginsburg RD, Miller C, Shybut GT. Athletes and the arts – The role of sports medicine in the performing arts. Curr Sports Med Rep 2013;12:397-403.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Browne GJ, Barnett PL. Common sports-related musculoskeletal injuries presenting to the emergency department. J Paediatr Child Health 2016;52:231-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Quarrier NF. Performing arts medicine: The musical athlete. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 1993;17:90-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Myer GD, Ford KR, Brent JL, Hewett TE. Differential neuromuscular training effects on ACL injury risk factors in“high-risk” versus “low-risk” athletes. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2007;8:39.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Hamari J, Sjöblom M. What is eSports and why do people watch it? Internet Res 2017; 75:985-96.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Hallmann K, Giel T. eSports – Competitive sports or recreational activity? Sport Manage Rev 2018;21:14-20.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Katz WA. Musculoskeletal pain and its socioeconomic implications. Clin Rheumatol 2002;21 Suppl 1:S2-4.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Hewlett S. Oxford Textbook of Rheumatology. 4th ed. United Kingdom, Oxford University Press; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Schnitzer TJ. Update on guidelines for the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Clin Rheumatol 2006;25 Suppl 1:S22-9.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Borg-Stein J, Zaremski JL, Hanford MA. New concepts in the assessment and treatment of regional musculoskeletal pain and sports injury. PM R 2009;1:744-54.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Cohen SP. Sacroiliac joint pain: A comprehensive review of anatomy, diagnosis, and treatment. Anesth Analg 2005;101:1440-53.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Daerga L, Edin-Liljegren A, Sjölander P. Work-related musculoskeletal pain among reindeer herding Sami in Sweden-a pilot study on causes and prevention. Int J Circumpolar Health 2004;63 Suppl 2:343-8.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Kelsey JL. Epidemiology of Musculoskeletal Disorders. 1st ed. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press; 1982.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Gran JT. The epidemiology of chronic generalized musculoskeletal pain. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 2003;17:547-61.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Small E. Chronic musculoskeletal pain in young athletes. Pediatr Clin North Am 2002;49:655-62, vii.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
17.
Laker SR, Concannon LG. Radiologic evaluation of the neck: A review of radiography, ultrasonography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and other imaging modalities for neck pain. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 2011;22:411-28, vii-viii.  Back to cited text no. 17
    
18.
Bialosky JE, Bishop MD, Price DD, Robinson ME, George SZ. The mechanisms of manual therapy in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain: A comprehensive model. Man Ther 2009;14:531-8.  Back to cited text no. 18
    
19.
Stecco L, Basmanjian JV, Day JA. Fascial Manipulation for Musculoskeletal Pain. Italy: Piccin Padova; 2004.  Back to cited text no. 19
    
20.
Wright A, Sluka KA. Nonpharmacological treatments for musculoskeletal pain. Clin J Pain 2001;17:33-46.  Back to cited text no. 20
    
21.
Chou R, Qaseem A, Snow V, Casey D, Cross JT Jr., Shekelle P, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain: A joint clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Ann Intern Med 2007;147:478-91.  Back to cited text no. 21
    
22.
Chou R, Qaseem A, Snow V, Casey D, Cross J, Shekelle P, et al. Australian acute musculoskeletal pain guidelines group. evidence-based managment of acute musculoskeletal pain diagnosis and treatment of low back pain: A joint clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Ann Internal Med 2003;147:478-91.  Back to cited text no. 22
    
23.
Furia JP. High-energy extracorporeal shock wave therapy as a treatment for insertional Achilles tendinopathy. Am J Sports Med 2006;34:733-40.  Back to cited text no. 23
    
24.
Stergioulas A, Stergioula M, Aarskog R, Lopes-Martins RA, Bjordal JM. Effects of low-level laser therapy and eccentric exercises in the treatment of recreational athletes with chronic achilles tendinopathy. Am J Sports Med 2008;36:881-7.  Back to cited text no. 24
    
25.
Sayana MK, Maffulli N. Eccentric calf muscle training in non-athletic patients with Achilles tendinopathy. J Sci Med Sport 2007;10:52-8.  Back to cited text no. 25
    
26.
Rabago D, Slattengren A, Zgierska A. Prolotherapy in primary care practice. Prim Care 2010;37:65-80.  Back to cited text no. 26
    
27.
Chen CH, Cao Y, Wu YF, Bais AJ, Gao JS, Tang JB. Tendon healing in vivo: Gene expression and production of multiple growth factors in early tendon healing period. J Hand Surg Am 2008;33:1834-42.  Back to cited text no. 27
    
28.
Maffulli N, Walley G, Sayana MK, Longo UG, Denaro V. Eccentric calf muscle training in athletic patients with achilles tendinopathy. Disabil Rehabil 2008;30:1677-84.  Back to cited text no. 28
    
29.
Hosseinzadeh M, Andersen OK, Arendt-Nielsen L, Madeleine P. Pain sensitivity is normalized after a repeated bout of eccentric exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 2013;113:2595-602.  Back to cited text no. 29
    
30.
Friedmann-Bette B, Bauer T, Kinscherf R, Vorwald S, Klute K, Bischoff D, et al. Effects of strength training with eccentric overload on muscle adaptation in male athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol 2010;108:821-36.  Back to cited text no. 30
    
31.
Hall MP, Band PA, Meislin RJ, Jazrawi LM, Cardone DA. Platelet-rich plasma: Current concepts and application in sports medicine. J Am Acad Orthop Surg 2009;17:602-8.  Back to cited text no. 31
    
32.
Kobayashi M, Itoi E, Minagawa H, Miyakoshi N, Takahashi S, Tuoheti Y, et al. Expression of growth factors in the early phase of supraspinatus tendon healing in rabbits. J Shoulder Elbow Surg 2006;15:371-7.  Back to cited text no. 32
    
33.
de Vos RJ, Weir A, van Schie HT, Bierma-Zeinstra SM, Verhaar JA, Weinans H, et al. Platelet-rich plasma injection for chronic achilles tendinopathy: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2010;303:144-9.  Back to cited text no. 33
    
34.
Filardo G, Kon E, Villa SD, Vincentelli F, Fornasari PM, Marcacci M. Use of platelet-rich plasma for the treatment of refractory jumper's knee. Int Orthop 2010;34:909-15.  Back to cited text no. 34
    
35.
Yildiz Y, Apaydin AH, Seven MM, Orscelik A. The effects of prolotherapy (hypertonic dextrose) in recreational athletes with patellofemoral pain syndrome. J Exp Integr Med 2016;6:53-6.  Back to cited text no. 35
    
36.
Reeves KD, Fullerton BD, Topol G. Evidence-based regenerative injection therapy (prolotherapy) in sports medicine. The Sports Medicine Resource Manual Saunders (Elsevier). 2008:611-9.  Back to cited text no. 36
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]



 

Top
 
 
  Search
 
Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

 
  In this article
Abstract
Introduction
Diagnostic Criteria
Management
Evidence
Recent Advances ...
Conclusions and ...
References
Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    Viewed632    
    Printed43    
    Emailed0    
    PDF Downloaded48    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal