Referred Pain Explained: Finding The True Source

Ever wondered why sometimes the source of pain is so hard to find? There are a number of possible injuries or dysfunctions which are located away from the area where you feel discomfort or pain. This is what we call referred pain. One example of referred pain that most people have already experienced is a Brain Freeze. When you eat or drink something ice cold, the pain stimulus is coming from your mouth however you feel the pain in your brain and at the back of your head. 

Most Common Sources of Referred Pain

Referred pain most commonly occurs in the teeth, jaw, neck, shoulders and back but can occur all over the body. Referred pain is most commonly caused from trigger points or nerves. 

Trigger points referral: These are taut bands of muscle that can cause pain at a completely different area of the body. Although the reason why trigger point referred pain exists is still unclear, the pattern or referral is the same for every person and releasing trigger points can alleviate symptoms far away from the area that is being treated. A common trigger point is in the muscles at the base of your head, which causes pain behind your eyes or above your ears.

Nerves referral: When for various reasons nerves are impinged or damaged at their root in the spine, pain may be felt in areas of the body supplied by the damaged nerve. For example, a slipped disc in the lower back can irritate the sciatic nerve giving you pain and other symptoms around your hamstrings or even all the way down in your toes. This type of referral is also possible when there is nerve injury anywhere along the nerve pathway, for example elbow pain after a shoulder dislocation which damaged the ulnar nerve. 

Finding the true source of pain

It is important to find the true source of pain as otherwise treatment will not be effective. Frequently when people experience referred pain they are confused as there is seemingly no explanation or reason for the pain. Just waiting for the pain to ‘make sense’ or for it to go away on its own can increase the risk of further injury or complications. Finding the true source of pain usually requires the consultation, evaluation and treatment of a health care professional. Here at Health Place our therapists always conduct an assessment before starting treatment to ensure that the correct areas are receiving treatment.

Treating and managing referred pain

As the most common sources of referred pain are from trigger points and nerves, seeing a Myotherapist is ideal. This is because of their speciality in treating issues with nerves and myofascia along with their broader range of treatment techniques. Some of the most effective techniques to help treat and manage referred pain are:

  • Dry needling
  • Electro-Dry needling
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Myofascial release
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Heat or ice application

Need more? Visit your therapist at Health Place

At Health Place we have talented therapists who will always assess your pain or injury first before treatment and give you a treatment plan and exercises for you to do at home tailored to your needs.

For any more information or questions, feel free  call us  at (07) 3852 2434 or email us at

If you need to book in a treatment, feel free to  Book Online

Covid-19 Reminder

According to QLD Health and the WHO, if you are experiencing any of the following please stay home and seek professional medical advice:

  • Sore Throat
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Fever
  • Difficulty Breathing 

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