Sometimes referred shoulder pain can originate from the cervical spine (neck). Referred pain is a phenomenon where pain in a certain body part is felt away from its’ actual source.
This is a result of interconnecting sensory nerves in our nervous system. Some nerves can supply more than one tissue in the body and so when pain is felt in one area, it can be interpreted by the brain as coming from another area supplied by the same sensory nerve.
Injury to any structures in the neck zone can cause referred pain into the shoulder tricking our brains to believe our shoulders are injured.
TYPES OF REFERRED PAIN
SOMATIC REFERRED PAIN
Somatic Referred Pain is injury to other structures apart from spinal nerves themselves. When structures such as ligaments, tendons, muscles and joints are injured, the pain chemicals produced can irritate nearby sensory nerves and if these nerves innervate other structures elsewhere, the brain can interpret the pain to come from those other areas. As a rule, somatic referred pain is perceived in regions that share the same segmental innervation as the source.
This type of pain is described as a dull gnawing achy pain. It is often hard to localize and the area of pain is wide. This pain is different to pain caused by injury to an actual nerve itself.
RADICULAR REFERRED PAIN
Radicular pain is a type of referred pain from injury to a spinal nerve. This causes a sharper pain to be felt in a much smaller distinct area as well as paraesthesia (changes in sensation eg numbness) and weakness in the muscles innervated by the spinal nerve injured. The area of pain is felt in the area supplied by the spinal nerve. Radicular pain can be the result of issues such as herniated discs. When symptoms are felt down the arm in the distribution of the spinal nerve affected, we call this radiculopathy.
KEY DIAGNOSTIC FEATURES OF REFERRED PAIN VS SHOULDER PATHOLOGY
STEPS TO MANAGE REFERRED SHOULDER PAIN
Are you suffering from referred shoulder pain? Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy is here to help! Located in Newmarket, Brisbane. Call us on 07 3352 5116 today for your appointment.