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Dr Katie Willy - Osteopath

One of the most common questions we are asked is “What is referred pain?” The name suggests a strange problem, one that doesn’t relate to a specific area.  Referred pain is where pain is experienced in an area away from the actual source/cause of the pain.  You may have noticed some colourful charts on the walls of our treatment rooms.

These charts graphically display many of the common referral patterns of muscles and also of the spine.  They are a  fantastic tool for us to give you a greater understanding of your pain pattern.
The mechanism of referred pain is thought to be the nerves from the tissue or organ where the problem is ‘mixing’ with the sensory nerves where the pain is felt.
The pain felt with referred pain is usually deep, and it is difficult to pinpoint where the exact location is. At times, however, referred pain can result in numbness, pins and needles or tingling in areas of the body.
There are many conditions that involve referred pain. A very common example is headaches, in which pain is referred to the base of the skull, the top of the head, the forehead, or to the temples. The source of the problem with headaches is most often the joints or muscles of the upper neck. Pain sensations travel through the nerves between the neck and head, and confusion in the nerve pathways results in pain being felt in the forehead, or temples.
Osteopaths are specially trained to locate the underlying source of pain, and restore proper function to the area.  As you may have experienced, Osteopaths are not always treating where your pain is felt, we are often treating adjacent sites and sometimes replicate your pain whilst treating these adjacent sites.
Although referred pain may sound confusing, it is mapped out quite well and consistently person-to-person.  Your Osteopath knows this map and can therefore help you out!

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