How the Intensity of Primary Pain Affects Referred Pain

How the Intensity of Primary Pain Affects Referred Pain

While everyone experiences pain at various moments throughout life, it tends to be a bit like snowflakes—one person’s pain will never quite match another’s. This is why treating pain can sometimes be quite difficult, as it cannot be empirically measured by medical professionals. The only person who truly understands the pain, what it feels like, and what effect it is having is the person who is suffering from it.


The Importance of Pain

Pain alerts us that something is wrong with the equilibrium of our bodies. These unpleasant signals force us into a course of action to fix whatever is wrong, from all problems minor to serious. In this course of action, however, comes the difficulty of treating the pain, which is why doctors and medical professionals have great knowledge of different causes/qualities of pain. Sometimes the solution is clear-cut and other times some more investigation is necessary.

Verbal/Nonverbal Signs of Pain

Pain comes with a variety of verbal and nonverbal signs, the verbal of course being complaint and explanation. Nonverbal signs are plentiful. They can include but are not limited to the following:

  • Different facial expressions: clenched teeth, tightly closed eyes, wrinkled forehead, widely opened eyes/mouth
  • Body movements: restlessness, pacing, immobility, muscle tensions),
  • Vocalizations: crying, moaning, gasping
  • Changes in social interaction: silence, withdrawal/absences, reduced attention span

Medical professionals can examine all of the above signs when examining someone who is in pain.


Referred Pain

Referred pain is a subset of the somatic sensations that alert our body to problems and/or imbalance. The term refers to pain that is felt in a different location than where tissue damage occurred. The human body has a network of interconnecting sensory nerves that supplies information to many different tissues within the body. When one nerve is stimulated, the brain can interpret the information from that stimulus to cause the sensation of pain in a completely different part of the body.

Typical Examples

  • A very well-known example of referred pain is that of a heart attack. The loss of blood flow to the muscle tissue of the heart may occur in the upper chest, left shoulder and/or arm.
  • The most commonly understood example is probably the “brain freeze.” Nerves in the throat or palate transmit pain signals because of the rapid temperature change in sinus capillaries.
  • Two strange examples are that of the gallbladder and the appendix, both of which can sometimes cause one to experience pain the shoulder.


While there are numerous pharmacologic remedies that doctors can prescribe, there are also non-pharmacologic remedies that can be used alone or in conjunction with drugs to help relieve pain. Below is a list of various remedies:

  • Western medicine: the list of medications that can be prescribed to relieve pain is seemingly endless. This list includes readily available nonopioid analgesics (i.e. acetaminophen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen), stronger opioid analgesics (i.e. morphine, codeine, methadone), and adjuvant analgesics (i.e. antidepressants, anti-epileptics, steroids, lidocaine, psychostimulants) which address symptoms that accompany the pain.
  • Massage: massages can work wonders for relieving muscle spasms, improving circulation, and cutaneous stimulation.
  • Relaxation exercises: relaxation exercises work to reduce anxiety, decrease muscle tension, and lower blood pressure by altering consciousness to give individuals control and peace. These include but are not limited to meditation and yoga.
  • Alternative medicine: many people turn to alternative medicine, either in conjunction with or separate from Western medicine. Complementary and alternative medicine includes four major subsets:
    • Biologic: Chemical compounds inside of plants are utilized for pain relief. Examples include herbal mixtures, macrobiotic diets, magnesium, and melatonin.
    • Energy fields: These relief techniques are based on theories of unseen forces in the human body. Examples include acupuncture, therapeutic touch, and pulse fields.
    • Manipulative/Body-Based: These techniques focus on the relationship between body structure and function. Examples include chiropractic techniques, reflexology, aromatherapy, and massages.
    • Mind-Body: These techniques channel the mental capacity of the patient to manage pain. Examples include hypnosis and biofeedback.

People experiencing pain should consult with medical professionals to assess the type of pain, its severity/seriousness and evaluate the options available to treat and manage that pain. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Dallas Pain Relief Center today!


The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.

Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.

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