Pain can start in one place, but it doesn’t always stay in the same spot though. In fact, pain can spread, expand, or shift over time. In addition, pain can also radiate from one body part to another! And this makes treatment a challenge.
How Pain Can Spread
Below we’ve compiled a list of ways pain can spread. And there are several ways pain can move through your body, such as:
This is a common way of how pain can spread. We change our movements in response to pain. To protect an injured part, we overcompensate. For example, when you have a leg injury. This disrupts the normal mechanics of your body. You will move differently to reduce stress on the injured leg. Prolonged pain results in a different walking pattern. Over time, other parts of the body become stressed. Your back is one such part. It works harder to make up for the leg weakness. Muscles in your back can start to tighten in response. Pain can radiate through your back and hips.
This is when we avoid using an injured part. This is commonly seen with hand injuries. People will continue to do daily activities. But, they will switch to their other hand. This causes over-dependence and over-use. This causes new pain.
Referred Pain Can Spread
You can also experience referred pain. This is common with muscle trigger points. Trigger points are tender to touch. They can also cause pain in another area depending on their location. A common example of this is seen in smartphone use. The forward head position causes trigger points to develop. They appear in the trapezius muscle. A trigger point in the trapezius muscle can cause referred pain. You can get headaches, eye pain, and jaw pain too.
Nerves run through several different body parts. Pressure on nerves in one area can be felt in another location. Sciatica is the most common example of this moving pain. A herniated disc in the spine presses on nerves. This can cause pain in the back. It can also cause pain to shoot down the leg. This pain typically feels like an electrical shock.
The way the brain processes pain can also spread the pain. Or at least it will seem that way. The intense nerve pain from an injury can move. You can feel pain in the opposite arm to the one you injured. The reason for this is not known. But, the new pain strongly mimics the original pain.
There are ways for the pain to move around the body. Understanding these can lead to more effective treatment. You need to discuss your pain with your doctor. This can help uncover clues about the location. Things to consider include:
Is the pain throbbing and achy? Is it in a new part of the body that was not injured? This is likely to be muscular overcompensation.
Is it burning or shooting? This is likely to be nerve irritation or a pinched nerve.
In most cases, you can restore activity where the pain first started. This will reduce stress in other parts of the body. Listen to your body. It will give you clues as to what it needs.