Most people are familiar with the idea of referred pain even if they don’t know it. If someone is having a heart attack, where may they experience pain other than the chest? If you answered the left arm, left shoulder or left jaw, then you named the most common pain referral patterns for the heart. Referred pain is a phenomenon that occurs when nerve fibers from different parts of the body converge on the same levels of the spinal cord. This then confuses the brain making you think that one part of the body hurts when really it is another part that is the problem. Here is a list of the 8 most common, yet sometimes very tricky pains originating from organs in the body that may be misdiagnosed as musculoskeletal pain.
1. HEART: Though the left arm, left shoulder, and left TMJ are the best known referral patterns, women are more likely to have a broader symptom referral including neck, upper back, right arm, low back, and stomach pain. 2. GALL BLADDER/LIVER: Right shoulder pain or the lower part of the right shoulder blade. 3. KIDNEY: Flank pain and pain that radiates around to the front in the groin area. 4. IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Pain in the pelvic region or low back. 5. PANCREAS: Pain starting in the left upper part of the abdomen that radiates around to the back. 6. APPENDICITIS: Pain around the belly button. 7. STOMACH: Pain between the shoulder blades. 8. TEETH/GUMS: Pain felt in the ears. Often when babies are teething they will pull on their ears because that is where the perceived pain is.
All these types of pains are part of a differential diagnosis that doctors comprise when examining or consulting with a patient. It is important to consult your doctor if you have any of these symptoms to determine the cause of the pain. Remember, pain is never normal. It is simply an indication that something in the body is not right.