Has pain moved into your body, taking residence in one particular area? Some people suffer from the same headaches, foot pangs, or muscle soreness day after day. Discussing these sensations with a physician or physiotherapist is important. However, don’t be surprised if the medical professional announces that the body part plaguing you is fine. In fact, the relentless pain you feel in your head, foot, or back may not originate in that location at all. What you might be experiencing is referred pain.
Exploring the Disconnect of Pain
Before defining referred pain, let’s explore the phenomenon with some common examples. When a person experiences a heart attack, you may see him or her grab their arm. Why? Similarly, why are people who suffer from intense headaches prescribed neck exercises and massages instead of prescription strength painkillers? Why is there an apparent disconnect between the location of pain sensations and the source of pain itself?
Defining Referred Pain
The health field has a term for this phenomenon called, “referred pain.” The Cleveland Clinic defines the term as “pain in an area of the body that is distant from the source of the pain.”
Referred pain makes sense if you think of the body’s nervous system as a network of interconnected wires. The nervous system uses nerves (or wires) to connect muscles and organs with the brain. When all components of the nervous system work properly, body parts are able to communicate with one another. However, when problems arise and nerve cells become irritated, signals can get crossed, sending pain signals to otherwise healthy body parts.
The Pain isn’t what you think
Technically speaking, if you approach a physician or physiotherapist with knee pain, he or she might be correct to say, “It’s not what you think.” Your knees might be fine. The real problem could be in your hips and because many nerve cells travel similar pathways through the nervous system, actual problems in your hips are sending pain sensations that are realized in your healthy knees.
Although referred pain may seem like an odd occurrence, it is quite common. Whether or not you know the source of your pain, if you are experiencing persistent pain, consider seeing a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists can help to pinpoint the cause of your pain and alleviate it by treating it at the source.
Persistent pain is no joking matter. Headaches, foot pangs, and muscle soreness may be a sign of a more significant health concern. Your nervous system is complex and can cause confusion about your pain. Therefore, when pain moves in, no matter how slight or insignificant it may seem, think about having it evaluated by a physiotherapist.