You might assume that pain is caused by the area of your body that is hurting. Some pain problems can originate further up the nerve pathway, or even within the spine. Referred pain is a term that can confuse you about the nature of your health problem.
Understanding the basics of referred and secondary pain can help you to manage your nagging cases. The following are four important points to start with.
- Referred pain: Causes
Complex network of nerves makes up the human nervous system. The spinal cord, which is the largest nerve bundle, transmits signals between the brain, body, and mind through several major nerve root branches that run through the spinal cord. These nerve roots branch out through the spaces between vertebrae. These nerve roots branch out to many smaller nerves.
This system’s interconnectedness sometimes allows pain signals from the body to travel from one place to another. The spinal column may be the source of the initial pain. A herniated disc or spinal stenosis could cause pain in the spine.
Referred pain can also be caused by trigger points . Trigger points can form in any area of the body. Chronic trigger points often affect the upper back and shoulders. Trigger points can be caused by repetitive motion strain, emotional stress and muscle injuries.
Even if your spine is healthy or you have no trigger points, you may still feel referred musculoskeletal discomfort due to soft tissue inflammation. Strained tissue can entrap a nerve and send pain signals along the nerve pathway.
- Referred pain is a common example
Sciatica and cervical radioculopathy are two common causes of referred spine pain. A herniated disc spinalstenosis, or another lumbar problem can cause sciatica. This pinches the roots the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can cause pain in the leg or foot, as well as numbness or tingling or loss of muscle strength.
Cervical Radiculopathy can produce symptoms similar to sciatica, but in the upper extremities. This happens when the cervical nerve roots are compressed and send abnormal pain signals to the arm, shoulder, or hand. You might mistake these hand symptoms for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Referred pain can be independent of nerve compression. They are simply a result the interconnections between physical components. A common example of this is an ice cream headache. However, shoulder pain could be a sign of heart or liver problems.
- Referred pain can be treated with non-surgical treatment options
You can be checked by a primary care physician or an emergency physician for any symptoms that could indicate a heart attack, or other serious condition. Even if the problem area doesn’t seem to be physically severe, you should get checked out for any musculoskeletal issues which might cause referred pain.
Non-surgical treatments are often the best option for referring pain. For example, injections into trigger points may be beneficial if your pain management professional feels they are present. These injections are made up of drugs that relax muscle knots and make them submissive.
Injections may also be used to reduce inflammation or irritation near the spinal nerve roots. Transforaminal injections deliver steroid medication directly to the swollen tissue, which reduces swelling.
Conservative corrective care may also be helpful for referred pain caused by chronic musculoskeletal weaknesses or imbalances. Your doctor might recommend adjustments, physical therapy, or massage therapy to maintain a more straight, healthy, and less stressful posture.
- Neurosurgery for Referred pain
If conservative methods fail to resolve your referred pain you might consider surgery. Your neurosurgeon will recommend one of many procedures depending on the source of your referred pain.
A discectomy is a procedure that removes the disc. The minimally invasive version, called microdiscectomy, can be used to treat referred pain. The neurosurgeon will remove a small amount of vertebral bones to reach the herniated disk, and then the surrounding nerve tissue will be removed.
Thickening or overgrown bone can press against spinal nerve tissue in cases of spinal stenosis and bone spurs. The problem can be addressed by your neurosurgeon who will remove the bone causing the nerve to become free. It is possible for nerve tissue to be damaged from compression to take some time to heal.
Florida Medical Pain Management will diagnose the root cause of your pain, and provide state-of-the art treatments to get it under control. Call our office to find out more or schedule a consultation.
This article was written by a medical professional at Florida Medical Pain Management. Florida Medical Pain Management is proud to offer comprehensive Pain Management In Clearwater to a diverse group of patients. Patients at Florida Medical Pain Management can get help managing hip, knee, leg, and neck pain. The practice also offers comprehensive arthritis management, along with treatments for auto accidents, sports, and work injuries.