Finding The Source of Referred Pain
Referred pain is a pain that is felt in some part of the body other than the site of origination. One of the best-known examples of referred pain is associated with heart attack. People who are suffering a heart attack often describe excruciating pain in the left arm or the shoulder, but that is not where the problem is.
Referred pain occurs when a pain signal comes into the spinal cord and nerves not directly affected are stimulated. Referred pain from our organs is often poorly localized, unpleasant, and associated with nausea or other autonomic symptoms. Referred pain is usually going to affect a structure that developed from the same embryonic segment. Deep osseous or somatic pain may also be referred, but superficial pain is not.
It’s not an exact science. Referred pain seems to occur because nerves from various parts of the body converge on their way to the spinal cord. The sensory nerves from the heart, for example, flow into the same part of the spinal cord that gathers nerve impulses from the shoulder.
An “ice cream” headache is a less serious example of the same phenomenon, too much cold stuff in the mouth aggravates nerves in the palate, and the pain is referred to the forehead.
The key to treating referred pain is to locate the source and eliminate the problem. As chiropractors, we must be diligent in recognizing common locations for referred pain. As an example, the prostate refers to the back and hip, the liver and kidneys can cause back pain. The gall bladder refers to under the right scapula. The esophagus refers to the region between the shoulder blades.
Many people have pinched nerves in their neck that radiate down into their arms or have pinched nerves in their backs that radiate into their legs. It is not uncommon for the patient to experience more pain in their extremities than in the neck or the back where the real source of the problem originates.
If you’re experiencing leg pain and would like to figure out the root cause of your problem, please schedule an appointment with our chiropractic care office so we can diagnose your problem.