According to WebMD, “Referred pain occurs when a problem in one place in the body causes pain in another place.” I had never considered that maybe my aches and pains could be caused by something more serious going on elsewhere — I’m so glad I know this now!
While this should never take the place of medical advice, this exclusive look at referred pain in the body is extremely revealing and important. There are definitely symptoms you never want to ignore. I will definitely be paying attention to exactly where pains are occurring now before dismissing them as “normal.”
Scroll through below to see which of these nine referred pains might be a red flag for you.
Have you experienced any of these referred pains? Let us know in the comments!
If you are having heart problems, you may experience pain in the chest area around the heart. However, you may also experience referred pain shooting down the left arm or in the upper-middle portion of the back.
The University of Michigan Medical School writes, “Cardiac pain is often referred to areas of the body surface which send impulses to the same levels of the spinal cord that receive cardiac sensation. This is true especially on the left side.”
Any pain associated with the heart may indicate potentially life-threatening problems that require medical attention right away.
2. LUNG AND DIAPHRAGM
Issues with the lungs or diaphragm could be the cause of referred pain in one side of the neck or upper shoulder area. This may be the result of breathing problems or the phrenic nerve that runs from the spine, through the lungs, to the diaphragm.
Massage therapist Paul Ingraham writes that lung and diaphragm problems can cause “neck muscles to wreak havoc on your upper body.” He continues that “most people are suffering from these and many other consequences of inefficient respiration.”
Respiratory problems always need to be taken seriously and require a trip to the doctor.
3. LIVER AND GALLBLADDER
Trouble with the liver or gallbladder can also cause pain in the neck or upper shoulder areas, as well as the right side of the body, just below the nipple.
The American Massage Therapy Association writes that “the gallbladder may refer pain to the shoulder blade.” They continue that this referred pain is similar to that of the diaphragm because both the liver and gallbladder “bump up against the diaphragm.” The same message is carried to the neck and shoulder along the phrenic nerve as it is with diaphragm troubles.
Because you know your body best, you know the difference between a stiff neck and a serious pain. If you suspect that your neck or shoulder pain is referred, you should certainly have it checked out by a doctor.
4. STOMACH AND PANCREAS
Referred pain in these two specific areas on the front and back of the body may indicate a problem with the stomach or pancreas.
Physio-pedia.com writes that “approximately 50% of patients with acute pancreatitis experience radiating pain in the back.” There may also be “abdominal tenderness, typically in the upper quadrants.”
The difficulty of knowing when you are having organ problems makes paying attention to this referred pain extremely important.
5. SMALL INTESTINE
If you are experiencing trouble with your small intestine, you may have pain in the abdominal area near the belly button.
WebMD writes that “middle abdominal pain (pain in the area around the belly button)” could be the body’s way of expressing “small intestine pain (inflammation, intestinal spasm, functional disorders).”
This extremely specific location for referred pain can be very helpful for doctors trying to find the source of your abdominal pain, so be sure to specify exactly where it hurts.
6. COLON AND APPENDIX
Appendicitis and problems with the colon often present themselves with referred pain in these specific areas of the abdomen.
PatientPlus writes, “Pain in the right iliac fossa immediately raises suspicion of appendicitis.” “Right iliac fossa” is the term used for the right side of the middle-lower abdomen. The World Health Organization writes that “mid-gut pain” could be the result of problems with the “appendix [or] right colon.”
Because appendicitis is a life-threatening emergency, seeking medical attention for pain in this area is absolutely vital.
Problems with the kidney may present themselves as pain covering a wide area, including the lower back, abdomen, pelvis, and upper portions of the legs.
IHealthBlogger.com writes that kidney pain can be the cause of “the pain which you feel in the lower back region in the flanks just below the ribs.”
Kidney troubles are extremely important to diagnose, so you should see a doctor if you are feeling severe pain or discomfort in these areas.
Problems with the bladder will often manifest themselves in pain of the lower pelvis, on the front or back side.
The American Massage Therapy Association writes, “Because the bladder is located in the low back, an infection in this organ may cause referred pain to the lumbar area.”
There are a number of serious problems that could be associated with the bladder. This pain, especially when accompanied by any other urinary issues, should be a sign that a medical exam is needed.
Troubles with the ovaries can cause pain on either side of the abdomen. Womens-Health-Advice.com writes, “Ovarian cysts can cause sharp, stabbing pain (usually on one side of the abdomen).”
Ovarian cancer is a very serious, life-threatening illness. Any severe abdominal pain should be checked out by a doctor just to be on the safe side.
Recognizing the cause of referred pain is crucial to spotting many life-threatening illnesses. And while they are not a cause for panic, it is definitely important to be well-informed about what could be going on inside your body.
Have you ever experienced referred pain? Let us know in the comments.
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