When you visit the doctor with pain in a specific area of your body, you probably assume that the cause of the pain is somewhere in the same region. Referred pain is proof that this isn’t always the case. A condition that causes referred pain is located in one area of your body, while the pain itself is located in an entirely different place.
You can trust LA Pain Doctor in Metairie, LaPlace, Harvey, and Luling, Louisiana, to evaluate your pain and discover its true source. Our experienced pain management specialists Firas Hijazi, MD, Satvik Munshi, MD, and Ben Homra, MD, specialize in pain management and can help even when the pain is challenging to diagnose because it comes from somewhere unexpected.
Why referred pain happens
To understand how referred pain works, you need a loose understanding of your body’s nervous system. The nervous system includes a widespread network of sensory and motor nerves that branch out from your spinal cord and communicate with your brain. All of these nerves are connected, and it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact area where some pain starts.
It’s very common for referred pain to originate in your spine. Shoulder pain, arm pain, or leg pain can all indicate a pinched nerve somewhere in your back, often due to spinal conditions like:
- Herniated discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Facet joint arthritis
Referred pain originating from your spine happens when something compresses a nerve root, which is where a nerve branches out of your spine. Many conditions and inflammation in and around your spine can place pressure on these roots and result in pain along the nerves’ length and near their endings, which are elsewhere in your body.
It’s also possible to experience referred pain from conditions that have nothing to do with spinal nerve compression, such as a heart attack causing arm pain.
Sciatica: A form of referred pain
Sciatica isn’t a condition but rather a referred symptom of a pinched nerve in your lower back. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, and it runs through your buttock and down the back of your leg, branching out from your lumbar spine.
While sciatica originates from nerve compression in your lumbar spine, you experience symptoms in your buttock and down your leg on one side. These symptoms seem to radiate downward and can include burning, stabbing, and tingling sensations. Your leg might feel numb or weak if you have severe sciatica.
Just like other types of referred pain, sciatica can come from many different conditions in or around the spine, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and other conditions that compress nerves. You’re more likely to experience it if you’re overweight or carry poor posture.
How we manage your referred pain
Our pain management specialists at LA Pain Doctor use diagnostic imaging to find the source of your pain after carefully reviewing symptoms like pain, tingling, and numbness.
Managing referred pain that originates in or around your spine can involve a combination of evidence-based therapies such as:
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Nerve root blocks
- Epidural steroid injections
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
Your provider might also suggest altering your lifestyle to alleviate the compression in some way, such as managing your weight, improving your posture, or taking frequent breaks from long periods of standing or sitting.
Don’t wait to book your treatment consultation at one of our New Orleans area offices. Call LA Pain Doctor, or schedule an appointment online for referred pain management today.