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Somatic Referred Pain

Referred pain is where you feel pain in an area which is away from the place where the pain originates.

Common Signs & Symptoms

Dull, throbbing pain which feels vague in nature
Pain may be felt in the buttocks, groin, hip and upper leg, can feel below the knee

Description

Referred pain is where you feel pain in an area which is away from the place where the pain originates. It can stem from any part of you; organs, muscles, skin, bones and joints. An example of referred pain is when pain is felt in the neck, arm, shoulder or chest during a heart attack. The longer you have referred pain or the more often it occurs, the more sensitive you become and your pain can get stronger or easier to trigger.

Pain the your lower back, buttocks, groin or upper legs can be referred from a structure in your back or abdomen. This is different to pain down the leg from a 'trapped nerve' (radicular pain) where the pain usually follows the track of the irritated nerve and may cause tingling or numbness.

Your therapist will find the origin of your pain by pressing on or stressing the structure which is causing it. Treatment is focussed on treating the origin causing trouble rather than the area where you feel the pain.

Advice & Treatment

Your back has a lot of deep structures which can be the source of your problem. The origin of some pains can be difficult to locate (deep muscles, discs and nerves in the spine) and MRI scans and X Rays are usually unhelpful in finding where your problem stems from. Many people with somatic pain will find their back pain settles with time and self-care but there are some positive steps you can take:

Self-massage or Therapist massage - When you have pain, your muscles will often tighten or stiffen to protect the sore area and this can lead to additional pain. Self-massage is where you massage your back using a tennis ball between the wall and your back and buttock muscles. Applying heat to your back muscles helps to ease your discomfort and improve your blood flow.

Stay active and staying at work helps to keep your muscles toned, resting in bed will make your problem worse.

It's important that you take medication to keep your pain in control - this will help to keep the tone in your muscles. Back pain can stop your muscles from working, in the same way that your knee gives way when you have pain in your leg.

Improve your core (tummy, back and buttock) muscle control. When you improve the tone of the muscles around your middle, you will gain more support and control in your back which improves your ability to heal.

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