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Musculoskeletal Infections

Musculoskeletal Infections

Musculoskeletal (MS) infections are the conditions that develop due to pathology in the musculoskeletal system. It is one of the leading causes of disability and is chronic in nature.

The common MS infections include:

  • Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissues. The bacteria enter the skin and deep tissues through a cut or injury. The common sites include face, upper and lower extremities.
  • Septic bursitis is an inflammation of bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that develops under the skin over the joints.
  • Infectious tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the synovial membrane covering the tendon due to infection or injury or strain.
  • Abscess is a localized collection of pus (infected material) in a body cavity. The most common cause of abscess formation is an infection. The risk of infection is high in people with a poor immune system. Abscess presents as a painful mass that can be compressed and is red in color. On palpation, the skin overlying the abscess is warm.
  • Pyomyositis is a bacterial infection of the skeletal muscles with an abscess formation. The prevalence of pyomyositis is high in immunocompromised patients. The typical symptoms include muscle pain and spasms and a deep thickening of the skin.
  • Septic arthritis , also known as infectious arthritis is an inflammation of the joint caused by bacteria. The articular cartilage that covers the joint surface is damaged or worn out causing pain and inflammation. The symptoms vary depending on the number of joints affected and the causative organism.
  • Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone and bone marrow caused by bacteria. It may be either acute or chronic in nature.


The common symptoms include long-lasting pain, redness, stiffness, and swelling of the joints associated with fever. Shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, and ankle joints are more prone to develop musculoskeletal infections.


The diagnosis of MS infections is based on the medical history and physical examination. Your doctor may order a few tests to rule out other causes of infection. These include X-rays, MRI, and CT scans, joint fluid analysis, and lab studies such as blood count, ESR, and CRP.


The treatment measures include:

  • Medications such as NSAIDs and antibiotics to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid injections may be given in and around the inflamed joint to relieve pain.
  • Physical therapy to strengthen and condition the joint muscles.
  • Aspiration/drainage of the infected synovial fluid from the joint by arthroscopy
  • Surgical treatment to relieve severe pain and improve the deformed joint function normally.

Risk factors include drug abuse, pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and immune-deficiency disorders.

The possible complication of MS infection is complete destruction of the joint.