When the pain you feel is originating from an area other than where you feel the pain, you are experiencing referred pain. The brain is receiving messages from interconnecting nerves supplying various tissues and consequently gets confused and may signal pain in an area other than the actual site of the injury. This is what happens when an individual having a heart attack feels pain in the left arm. It is not the arm that is injured, but the heart. The interconnectivity of nerves running to the heart and arm cause the brain to interpret the injury as being related to the arm.
Referred pain can be felt in different parts of the body, and an accurate diagnosis of the actual source of the pain is required to rule out serious health issues. Athletes and very active individuals commonly experience referred pain in the back and shoulders resulting from an injury. Certain health conditions can also generate referred pain.
Referred Lower Back Pain
When you experience pain in your lower back, it can be referred pain from interconnecting nerves supplying the area of the lower back, pelvis and thigh. If there is an injury to any of these structures, the pain can be referred to other structures. In the case of referred pain in the lower back, it is not associated with pinched nerves. Pain from this area may radiate to the groin, buttock and upper thigh.
Less common than sciatica, referred pain in the lower back often feels like a dull ache that moves around. The intensity of the pain ranges from mild to severe and comes and goes. An injury that causes axial back pain can also cause referred lower back pain.
Getting an accurate diagnosis of referred lower back pain in important. The pain generated by sciatica requires a different type of treatment than that of referred lower back pain. Your doctor will carefully examine your back to determine if the pain is caused by nerve irritation or referred pain.
Referred Shoulder Pain
There are several causes for referred shoulder pain. One of the most common causes is osteoarthritis. Others include:
- Brachial plexus injury
- Cervical disc bulge
- Cervical facet joint sprain
- Cervical postural syndrome
- Cervical spine degeneration
- Thoracic facet joint sprain
- Thoracic postural syndrome
- Costovertebral joint sprain
- Thoracic spinal degeneration.
The pain you feel in your shoulder is unexplained and does not respond to movement of your neck, shoulder or arm if it is referred.
Other Sources of Referred Pain
Shoulder and back pain are often the result of referred pain from an issue with spinal alignment or health. However, referred pain in these areas can also be caused by serious health issues.
Pain on one side of the neck or in the upper shoulder area could be due to a problem with the phrenic nerve that runs from the spine through the lungs to the diaphragm. It could also indicate a breathing problem. Respiratory problems can often show up as pain in the neck muscles or the upper body.
Other organ problems that may manifest in the neck or upper shoulder area involve the gall bladder or liver. Problems with these may also cause pain in the chest area just below the right nipple. Gall bladder problems may also be felt as referred pain in the shoulder blade.
You may feel pain in your back or have tenderness in the upper quadrants of your body if you have a problem with your pancreas. Stomach problems can also manifest in these areas. It can be difficult to determine if you are experiencing back pain or pancreatitis. Examination by a doctor will identify the cause of the pain.
Referred pain from the kidneys can cover a large area including the lower back, pelvis, abdomen and the upper portions of the legs. Kidney problems can be life-threatening, so it is important to address pain in these areas. Likewise, bladder issues can also manifest as pain in the lower pelvic region, or lumbar area.
An accurate diagnosis of referred pain is critical to rule out serious health problems and develop an effective treatment plan. At Manhattan Sports Therapy, we find the source of your pain and provide treatment for relief. When you experience pain, contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation and a thorough examination.