Referred pain is defined as pain that is felt at a distance and often entirely remote from the original source. The understanding is nerve signals from various parts of the body may “feed” into the spinal cord using the same pathway. The pain felt can overlap with adjacent nerves and therefore be felt in another area.
Confusion surrounds the concept of Referred pain, as patients are often left wondering why treatment of completely non-related body parts improves the pain they were experiencing. This is due to referred pain which is a very common yet poorly understood phenomenon.
A common example of this is when a person is experiencing heart problems. The pain is known to refer into the left arm, jaw, neck or ear. The heart is a muscle and also not the only muscle that refers pain. All the muscles in the body can refer pain into different areas, commonly known as the muscles referred pain pattern.
Now this does not mean all pain that is felt is referred pain. As physiotherapists we would first need to assess a muscle and search for “problem areas” known as trigger points. When pressing onto these trigger points the referred pain pattern would become clear and a diagnosis can be made.
This concept is important for patients to understand as often the pain can be referred into a joint space, thus forcing patients to believe the problem is within the joint. Desperate for a solution, patients will often go for X-rays or surgery to find the origin of the pain. This can all be avoided by consulting a physiotherapist FIRST and receiving conservative treatment which could solve your problem.
Here are some common referral patterns (black “X” marking the problem within the muscle and red the referred pain)
Robinson Private Hospital
Medical Centre Block 4
Tel: 011 693 5041
Lenmed Private Hospital
Ward Street, Greenhills
Tel: 011 693 5041
1679 President Kruger Street
Tel: 011 753 2113
Luke and Barker Physiotherapy is a member of: