Have you been feeling pain in your muscle that seems to be sore? Well, it could be an actual pain on the muscle itself, but it may also be a muscle referred pain. A muscle referred pain is a pain perceived at the muscles other than the sight of the actual pain. For instance, pain stimuli along the forearm muscles may also cause pain on the palms, despite the absence of a noxious stimulus in the palmar region.

Muscle referred pain is usually perceived in a somatic area that is distant or near the site of the noxious stimuli. It usually occurs in a specific area of the body in a predictable and constant pattern.  This predictability of referred pain makes the diagnosis of the root cause of the pain.

What Causes Muscle Referred Pain?

Referred pain along the muscles may be caused by various conditions affecting the muscles and the fascia; thereby, it is also known as myofascial referred pain. It is commonly rooted from trigger points, which are muscle knots that are very hyperirritable.

The trigger point model explains the occurrence of unexplained pain distant to the trigger point. This is the main mechanism of muscle referred pain. Trigger points usually are areas of local tenderness that tend to radiate to surrounding areas or even in muscles distant to the site.  Other referred pain may also be caused by problems in the internal organs, ligaments and spine.

But why do people feel pain away from the actual site of the stimulus? This can be traced on the complexity of the coverage of nerve endings. Most nerve endings share a cell-pool in the spinal cord in which signals from a specific pain receptor may be interpreted as pain in other sites that share the same cell-pool with the affected pain receptor. The thalamus interprets the pain signals; however, the exact location of the pain is identified by the sensory cortex. So when a pain is present in a specific body part, it can also be felt in areas where nerve endings with similar cell pool on the spinal cord are located. This is also the reason that referred pain is usually predictable and constant (For instance, pain on the gallbladder is referred to the shoulders and back).

How Does Muscle Referred Pain Feels Like?

Pain along the muscles is usually felt as dull, aching pain while some may be sharp depending on the location. Others may feel like a tingling sensation.

Referred pain is as important as the pain originating from the point of the painful stimuli or trigger points. This fact is acknowledged by physicians and chiropractors so managements for referred pain are also essential to keep the patient in maximum comfort. Recognizing referred pain is also essential to diagnosing the real source of the painful stimuli. Not looking into muscle referred pain may also mean missing out on the exact source of pain. For instance, pain along the shoulders and the back should be noted very well as this may be due to an inflamed gallbladder or a life-threatening heart attack. In this line, if you have been suffering from pain, it is essential to consult a health care professional in order to rule out the source of pain because not all pain is as simple as it seems.