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Referred Pain

Shoulder PainMany people come to physical therapy with complaints of leg or arm pain and the therapist explains to them that their problem is actually in their spine. Although for some, this is an abstract concept, it is essential to understand referred pain when dealing with an injury. All structures that are deep in the body (not on the surface) do not have pain receptors, so the individual feels the pain in a different site than the actual source of the pain.

The individual will feel the pain where the structure that is irritated or inflamed attaches to the spinal cord. An easy example is a myocardial infarction or heart attack. Although the heart is in the center of the chest, a male will feel the pain in the left arm, jaw and back. Every structure deep in the body has specific referred pain pattern that helps your physical therapist determine your musculo-skeletal issue. This is why your therapist will ask targeted questions and perform specific tests to find the true source of your problem. Referred pain tends to spread further from the source, or peripheralize, as the structure is more irritated. One of the main goals of the therapist’s interventions will be bring the pain back, or centralize, towards the actual source of your pain. The therapist will then give you a focused home program to keep you better.

Physical Therapists at Atlas are experts in understanding referred pain to help you determine the real source of your pain and get you better, faster.