Referred pain - Spinal column curvature 2011

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Referred pain is any type of pain that a person feels in an area of the body other than where the pain is actually originating. A simple example is a heart attack where one doesn’t actually feel pain in the chest always, but often in the arm, neck, and shoulders.

Some have mistakenly attributed referred pain to pinched nerves in the past, but that is not usually the case. Much of the time, particularly in lower back pain, our brains have trouble narrowing down the exact source of the pain. Our bodies have a series of interconnecting nerve areas in the back, pelvis, and thighs. Tension in one of these areas can register in nearby areas as a result.

This is why people will often describe their back pain as a generalized pain. The pain might be caused by a knot or strain, but it just feels like a radiating pain across that entire region of the back.

When that happens it’s up to a qualified medical professional, including massage therapists, to narrow down the location. It usually becomes clearer during a massage where the therapist can feel around the entirety of the back and shoulders. In cases where there is indeed referred pain, patients may be surprised when a massage in a seemingly unrelated location alleviates their pain.

The solution to referred pain is related to trigger point therapy.

Other examples of referred pain that don’t necessarily fall into the realm of massage include:

  • Lung complications like pneumonia where pain is felt in the shoulders, upper arms, and armpits
  • Heart conditions and blood vessel blockages where pain is felt in the arms and shoulders
  • Ovarian cysts and other abdominal issues like gallstones or pancreatitis

Consult your physician if you’re experiencing those particular types of pain.

Otherwise, contact us to discuss your chronic back pain. It very well may be something that can be easily soothed with massage therapy — particularly in cases of referred pain. If you’re in the Winston Salem and Lexington areas of NC, we can help!