by Alan Jordan
Low back pain with referred pain can vary widely with regards to severity, intensity, locality and quality. It tends to be achy, dull and migratory (moves around). As opposed to true sciatica it is difficult for patients to pinpoint precisely. It also tends to come and go and often varies in intensity. It can result from the identical injury or problem that causes simple axial back pain and is often no more serious.
Referred pain is usually felt in the low back area and tends to radiate into the groin, buttock and upper thigh. The pain often moves around, and rarely radiates below the knee. This type of low back pain is not as common as axial low back pain or radicular pain (sciatica).
Referred pain is the same phenomenon as the pain that radiates down the left arm during a heart attack. It is the result of the extensive network of interconnecting sensory nerves that supply many of the tissues of the low back, pelvis and thigh.
An injury to any of these structures can cause pain to radiate – or be “referred” – to any of the other structures. It is important to understand that this type of pain is not due to “pinched nerves”, as most patients believe.
Sciatica, which is leg pain due to compressed or irritated nerves in the lower back region, differs from referred pain and the video below explains this thoroughly.
Area of Pain Distribution
Diagnosis of Referred Low Back Pain
Unfortunately, the brain cannot determine the specific source of the pain. A careful history and physical exam by an experienced spine specialist can usually distinguish this type of pain from radicular pain, or pain that radiates down the leg along the specific course of a compressed spinal nerve. The distinction between referred pain and radicular pain is critical because the treatment of the two types of pain varies considerably.
The wide variety of spinal pain specialists at our London clinic enable us to carry out any and all necessary investigations in order to determine the precise cause of your referred pain and furthermore to provide the most relevant treatment.