Patients occasionally find it difficult to grasp how pain in an arm or a leg can in fact originate from the neck or the lower back.  This concept is known as referred pain and today we explain a little about it.

Just because we feel pain for example down the back of our leg doesn’t necessarily mean that the pain is arising from structures in the back of the leg.  Pain referred from the sciatic nerve classically travels down the back of the leg and can often be confused for hamstring trouble in sports people.  However a nerve, one of the most common soft tissue structures to produce referred pain, can cause symptoms of pain anywhere along its course even if the problem is arising right back at the spine.

Similarly pain down the arms may be caused by nerves leaving the spinal cord at the neck which travel down the arm.  An assessment of your injury by a skilled physiotherapist will help to determine if your pain down the arm is for example due to tennis elbow, or due to an injury originating in the neck.  As physiotherapists we always try to identify the cause of the pain and treat the source of the injury so it’s important to have confidence that your therapist is treating the right area.  Just remember, even though the pain is down the leg the treatment that remedies it may well be directed at the base of your back.