Referred Pain

Understanding Referred Pain and How Chiropractic Can Help

Referred pain is a phenomenon where you feel pain in one part of your body, but the actual pain is located in a different area. When it comes to understanding pain and discomfort in the body, the nervous system can sometimes play tricks on us. Here we will delve into the fascinating world of referred pain and understand what is actually happening.

What is Referred Pain?

Referred pain can be perplexing. Imagine having pain in your shoulder, but the root cause of the pain is actually in the neck.  This is a classic example of referred pain. It occurs when the sensory nerves from different parts of the body converge on the same nerve pathways within the spinal cord. When an issue or injury arises in one area, it can stimulate those shared pathways, making your brain interpret the pain as coming from a different location.  This phenomenon is a result of the intricate wiring of the nervous system.

Common Causes of Referred Pain

Referred pain can manifest for various reasons, ranging from muscle imbalances to internal organ disfunction. Some common causes include:


  • Muscle trigger points: Trigger points can refer pain to other areas of the body. For instance, a trigger point in your upper back can cause pan in your shoulder or arm.
  • Visceral pain: problems with internal organs can often be felt in remote areas of the body. For instance, issues with the heart can manifest pain in the left arm and jaw as well as shortness of breath.
  • Nerve compression: A pinched nerve in the spine can result in referred pain in the leg. For instance, sciatica can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks and down the leg.
  • Postural issues: Poor posture can lead to muscle imbalances and trigger referred pain. Over time this can affect multiple areas of the body, from the neck to the lower back.

How Can Chiropractic Help?

Chiropractors focus on the musculoskeletal systems, primarily the spine. Chiropractors aim is to assess, diagnose and treat the various conditions relating to the spine and nervous system.  When it comes to referred pain, chiropractors can play a crucial role in identifying the true source of the pain and provide effective treatment in the following ways:


  • Spinal Adjustment: Chiropractic adjustments involve applying controlled force to the spine to correct misalignments (subluxations). By ensuring proper spinal alignment, chiropractors can alleviate pressure on nerves that may be causing referred pain.
  • Muscle Release Techniques: Chiropractors may use techniques such as myofascial release or trigger point therapy to address muscle imbalances and reduce referred pain originating from muscular issues.
  • Postural Correction: Chiropractors can assess and correct posture issues that contribute to referred pain. They may recommend exercises and lifestyle changes to improve posture and prevent future problems.
  • Holistic Approach: Chiropractic care takes a holistic approach to health, considering the body as a whole. This means chiropractors not only treat symptoms but also seek to address the underlying causes of referred pain.


Referred pain can be both confusing and uncomfortable, but understanding its origins and how it relates to the nervous system is crucial for effective treatment. Chiropractic care offers a natural and non-invasive approach to addressing referred pain by focusing on spinal health and overall well-being. If you're experiencing unexplained or chronic pain, consulting with a chiropractor may provide the relief you've been seeking, helping you live a pain-free and healthier life. Remember, your body's interconnected systems mean that sometimes the solution to your pain lies in an unexpected place, and chiropractic care can help you uncover it.


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