Where is the Pain Coming From?

Posted on April 4, 2019

Written By: Alena Walrath, LPTA

This may seem like a silly question. If you injured your ankle, it’s likely that your pain is coming from your ankle. However, not all pain is that simple.

Did you know that it could be possible for you to feel pain in a different location than the part of your body that is causing the pain?

One example we see quite often in physical therapy is radiating pain. This pain originates in one area but travels to another area along the same nerve. For example, numbness or tingling in your feet may lead you to assume that you need to see a podiatrist when in some cases the source of pain could be your spine, and the most effective treatment would be for your back.

Referred pain is another type of pain that can originate in one area, but is felt in a different location. For example, pain that originates in the heart is often felt in the shoulder (typically left), neck, upper back or jaw.

While not all pain is referred pain or radiating pain, this may help you understand why your physical therapist may ask questions that seem unrelated to your symptoms. Make sure to tell your physical therapist and other medical doctors you see about any pain you are having and be open to new ideas so you can receive the best treatment possible.