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Let’s Talk Referred Pain

Posted on April 27 2023

Pain anywhere in the body is a signal that something is wrong. Whether it’s chronic or the result of an injury during a workout or a clumsy day, pain can interfere with daily life and impact your mood, sometimes leading to depression or anxiety. So when body pain occurs, the first step should be to find and treat the cause.

However, what if the pain you’re experiencing isn’t the result of a specific action, like a fall or twist? For example, you have pain in your shoulder, but you cannot remember injuring or even impacting that area recently. If this is the case, you may be experiencing referred pain, which is the topic of today’s post. Keep reading to learn more about this body phenomenon and how bodywork with an experienced massage therapist can help. 

What is referred pain?

Referred pain is a phenomenon in which pain is felt in a part of the body that is different from the actual source of the pain or injury. This can happen because of how nerves are organized and connected in the body. While the scientific community isn’t entirely clear about how and why referred pain occurs, they do know it’s caused by some sort of malfunction in the nervous system.

Basically, nerves in the body are responsible for transmitting signals related to pain, touch, temperature, and other sensations. These nerves are interconnected and form a complex network that carries information from various body parts to the brain for processing. However, sometimes the brain may misinterpret the signals, leading to pain perception in a different location.

For example, let’s look at a pinched nerve. If the damaged nerve is in your spine, the pain can actually present elsewhere, such as in the glutes or legs. Similarly, a pinched nerve in your neck might manifest as elbow or shoulder pain. Therefore, it’s critical to identify the actual source of pain before creating a comprehensive approach to managing the issue and finding relief. 

Can my LMT help with referred pain?

Yes, licensed massage therapists have a deep understanding of the body’s anatomy, allowing them to locate the connections between the referred pain and the origins of that pain. An experienced and well-trained massage therapist can then help address the referred pain through various advanced muscle therapy techniques, as described below, that focus on releasing body tension, reducing muscle imbalances, and improving circulation in the affected areas.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger points are localized areas of muscle tightness or knots that can refer pain to other body areas. A licensed massage therapist can identify and apply focused pressure on these trigger points to release tension and relieve referred pain.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a technique that targets the fascia, which is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, and organs. By applying sustained pressure to and stretching the fascia, massage therapists can help release restrictions and reduce referred pain caused by fascial tension.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage involves applying firm pressure and slow strokes to reach the deeper layers of muscles and fascia. This technique can help relieve chronic muscle tension, improve circulation, and alleviate referred pain caused by muscle imbalances or tightness.

Stretch Massage

This massage combines precise stretching and targeted massage to relieve tight fascia and release range of motion limitations, followed by targeted deep tissue massage work to help improve flexibility, release muscle tension, and reduce referred pain caused by musculoskeletal imbalances.

Relaxation Techniques

Stress and tension can exacerbate referred pain. Licensed massage therapists can incorporate relaxation techniques, such as Swedish massage, into their sessions to help reduce stress, promote relaxation, and alleviate referred pain that may be exacerbated by stress.

Regular massage therapy, especially true muscle therapy techniques like those described above, can help address referred pain symptoms while relieving tension, improving circulation, correcting muscle tightness, and promoting relaxation. It’s important to honestly communicate with your licensed massage therapist about your areas of concern, so they can apply their deep knowledge and experience to address the issues - even when the areas they address aren’t where the pain is presenting.  

Trust your LMT to know what your body needs to heal and allow their work to work. Your body will thank you.

Book a massage with a Mantra Wellness licensed massage therapist today.