If you’ve ever suffered from various pain problems, you are likely to know that it can be difficult to determine exactly where the pain originates. Muscles are arranged closely together and there may be multiple body systems involved, which can cause bodily pain. Patients who seek treatment at the Spine Institute Northwest find that it is difficult for physicians to locate the origin of pain because it may manifest differently depending on many factors – which include diverse activity levels, types of motions, diet, and time of day. This is most common for patients who experience back pain that may not stay localized to the back region.
In fact, Dr. Kamson notes that for patients dealing with back pain, it’s not uncommon for pain to manifest to other parts of the body. Some particularly common sites for radiating pain include the shoulders, arms, neck, chest, and wrists for upper back pain, and hips and feet for lower back pain. How can it be that pain from your back may easily radiate so far away? The answer really depends on what is causing the underlying problem. For example, a thoracic disc bulge is a very common cause of back pain and may lead to radiating pain to the chest, arms, forearms, and wrists. A thoracic disc bulge is a situation in which the connective tissue surrounding a disc in the spine is torn, leading to a bulge. This often results from irregular bodily twisting, bending, or lifting motions over a period time. In another situation, damage to the tissue around a disc can lead to something called T4 syndrome in which irritation of the nerves can lead to a pins and needles sensation or numbness in the upper arms.
It’s easy for an injury in the core to radiate or refer pain because so much of your range of motion depends on the healthy functioning of your core. In addition, the spine is a critical part of the nervous system, so any pain in that area can easily be magnified. So if you start experiencing pain in your arms, wrists, hips, fingers, shoulders, neck, or feet, how can you be sure it isn’t radiated or referred pain? Here are a few things you can pay attention to:
- Do you have a history of back pain or have you experienced any pain recently? If so, pay attention to your back while you are feeling pain in another location. In some situations of radiated or referred pain, it’s still likely that you will feel pain in your back while also feeling discomfort elsewhere, which can make it difficult to determine where the pain originates.
- Does the pain correspond to a particular activity or time of day? If you notice that you’re more likely to experience pain after participating in a particular activity, performing a certain motion, or at a particular time of the day, you and your doctor should have an easier time determining what triggers your pain. Once you understand those triggers, you should have an easier time figuring out where the pain originates. It’s not a foolproof method, but it can be a great metric in isolating the problem.
Have you had any recent lifestyle changes that might have had an impact on a particular part of your body? For example, have you started a new job that keeps you seated at a desk for hours? Or a new job where you are often on your feet for long periods of time? Have you taken up a new hobby? Did you get a new bed? You will also want to consider any injuries that you may have had recently. For example, something as simple as a sprained ankle can lead to the development of other related problems since your ability to walk will have been compromised for a period of time, which can cause the ankle to heal incorrectly or cause a change in your gait.
Tell us where it hurts! If you want to find out what’s causing your chronic pain, our patient advocates are just a phone call away at 206-496-6030. Or, make an appointment today.