The Difference Between Referred vs Radiating Pain
Many patients come in with pain located in a different area than where the actual cause is located. Very common!
One of the biggest differentiators that we look for is if it is a nerve radiating type pain, or a referred pain pattern from such things as trigger points or joint segmental dysfunction. This key distinction is instrumental in providing the correct treatment and reaching the optimal outcome.
For instance, many patients come in with what they diagnose themselves as having “Sciatica”. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t. Many times I find that the pain is just referring from a nasty trigger point in the Lumbar Erectors or the quadratus lumborum muscle. Once I palpate that area where the trigger point is located, it reproduces their pain pattern. That is a good clinical sign for us.
Referred pain patterns are generally less focal and more in a general area not too far from the location of the cause. Trigger points have common locations of referred pain and in our training, we understand those pain patterns.
If you have a tracer type pain down the leg with potentially associated numbness, tingling, weakness, you may in fact have a nerve irritation of the Sciatic Nerve. The nerve can potentially be irritated by a Lumbar Disc or from a muscular entrapment at the piriformis or hamstring area to name a couple. Palpating those areas are vital in determining what is the root cause.
Too many times the patient seeks evaluation and even the doctor assumes its Sciatica and automatically orders X-Rays, MRI’s and misdiagnoses the patient. Then when the MRI comes back negative for a disc herniation, the doctor just prescribes rest and medication. Never really finding and fixing the actual cause! This leaves the patient frustrated and still in pain.