What does “Referred Pain” mean?

Referred pain is pain perceived at a location other than the site of the painful stimulus/ origin. It is the result of a network of interconnecting sensory nerves, that supplies many different tissues. (Ref: www.physio-pedia.com/Referred_Pain) There are many theories as to why this occurs, but the important thing as a clinician is the ability to recognise this and be able to treat it appropriately. 

As an example, there are may be instances where clients might be experiencing a shooting leg pain that is eventually traced back to a pulled shoulder muscle. The body is very inter-connected – nerves, muscle and fascia all play a role in the vast network that is our body. Likewise, as far as advances in medicine have progressed, there is still much that remains a mystery. That is why spending the time to trace back and confirm the true source of pain is always worth the effort.

You may have heard the term ‘Trigger Point’ (TP) and this refers to the actual area of hypertension that is causing the pain you are experiencing in another area. As can be seen in the top left diagram, a TP in the deeper gluteal muscles refers pain that mimics sciatic pain and as this is muscular in origin it is easily treated. In the top right diagram TP’s in the upper trapezius will refer pain to the temporal area near the eye and may also cause pain behind the ear. 

How do we identify a TP? Placing digital pressure on the TP will reproduce the pain pattern as well as eliciting a jump sign – two common signs that we are dealing with a TP.
When we are assessing TP’s we are looking to reproduce the pain pattern that our client is presenting with to establish which muscle or muscles are the cause of their pain. If you haven’t reproduced the pain, you haven’t found the problem! – therefore you will not be able to treat effectively.
A variety of techniques may be used by Soft Tissue Therapists (Remedial Massage) to treat TP’s ranging from:

  • digital (thumb/finger) pressure
  • Myofascial Dry Needling
  • specific stretching techniques
  • Kinesio Taping

The most important thing is making an accurate assessment of the cause of your pain, followed by an appropriate evidence-based treatment protocol.

Remember – not all pain is muscular in origin, so accurate assessment is essential in gaining positive results.

If you are having issues with pain and would like some more help with this, call us NOW!