Your Referrals Can Be A ‘Real’ Pain

No, I don’t mean the favor of your referrals of friends and family. We LOVE to get those. Today I want to talk about a type of pain known as ‘referred pain’. Referred pain is something that all of us have experienced at one time or another, yet may not have known what was happening. For example, have you ever had a headache that seems to be shooting through the back of your eye? Believe it or “knot”, that pain may be referring from your neck or shoulders.

What you commonly call a ‘knot’ is also known as a trigger point. These pesky little monsters can build up over time and without warning…BANG! You have a pain that is shooting up into your head, or down your leg (no, it’s not always sciatica pain).

Trigger points are taut little bands within a muscle that are caused from overuse, stress or constant repetitive use of a muscle. They tend to start off small, so small you don’t even know they are there. Over time, the muscle begins to develop a holding pattern or micro-contraction that allows it to both function normally as well as defend against too much strain. These silent monsters are what are known as ‘latent’ trigger points, meaning they exist, yet they aren’t signaling negative feedback alerting you to any issue. This is your body’s own way of self regulating and working efficiently to keep you moving. When they become ‘active’ is when you start to experience pain. At this point you may begin to compensate by sitting, walking or, if training, running differently in a means to alleviate the pain you are experiencing. Periodically, this will do the trick for one symptom of pain, but starts a cascading impact on your body in the way you now move, sit or even sleep, creating new symptoms of pain.

referral pain diagramYou may have experienced, in the course of a treatment, your therapist pressing on an area that you did not know was even an issue. As they dug deeper, the pain begins to radiate to another place. They have found a ‘latent’ trigger point that has been dormant, but prepared to withstand the next overload to the area. By palpating, pressing and addressing these trigger points, they can begin to teach the muscle to essentially let go. Once the trigger point has been addressed, the next step is to provide some neurological feedback to it by stretching it into its new resting state, hence ‘releasing’ any hold within the muscle. Take notice of the charts you see in the treatment rooms. They often indicate patterns that our patients present with. These charts help you better understand your body.

Trigger points are not always avoidable, but they are manageable. Until we can eliminate gravity, stress and technology, our bodies will always fall victim to trigger points. The next time your body signals to you that it is in pain, don’t ignore it by popping a pill or compensating. Take a moment to note these little triggers and bring them to the attention of your therapist. They will likely be able to provide you with some relief. They may also suggest some stretches or self-care technique with a tennis ball that may be able to alleviate the trigger on your own if it should rare its ugly head in the future.

So, keep the referrals of your friends and family coming and say goodbye to those pesky referrals that cause you pain. If you have any suggestions or ideas about anything you would like to learn more about, please shoot me an email at

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