Referred Pain

Heard of referred pain, but not sure what it is? Check out our easy to understand explanation and examples.

Referred pain, simply stated, is pain that is felt somewhere other than the place of origin.1

Here are a few examples of how we might experience referred pain.

  • Certain conditions, like arthritis, can change how we walk. As a result, other areas of our body can begin to hurt. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we have a problem with one of these body parts. It could simply be referred pain experienced from the original source.
  • Some heart attack symptoms are also an example of referred pain. In this case, it’s not uncommon to experience pain in your neck, shoulders, or back instead of feeling it in your chest where you might expect.
  • A problem with the kidneys, like having a kidney stone, can cause pain in your back, stomach, and even down into your thighs.

These are three different examples of how referred pain can work. In reality, referred pain can be experienced in many other scenarios. If you’re experiencing pain in one or more parts of your body, talk to your doctor. It’s possible that you could be experiencing referred pain from another condition or body part altogether.

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  1. Svensson, P., et al. (2011)Referred Muscle Pain: Basic and Clinical Findings. The Clinical Journal of Pain. 17: 11-19.

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