Vim & Vigor - Fall 2021 - 52

52
MISPLACED PAIN
Sometimes, the cause of your pain isn't where
you feel it. We explore this odd phenomenon
BY JOHN B. KUBE
M
ost people have the logical expectation
that when they feel pain,
the same spot where they experience
the sensation of pain must also be
the source of the pain. Not all pain works that
way, however. Pain resulting from structural,
muscular or neurological issues oſt en is experienced
in another region of the body.
Consider the condition commonly known
as sciatica. Sciatica describes a set of symptoms
that may have one or more causes, in the
same way that headache describes a symptom
rather than a specifi c condition. Sciatica refers
to pain, tingling or numbness in one leg;
although the sciatic nerves stimulate the leg
muscles, the cause of sciatic pain frequently is
in the hips or the spine. Th is is one example of
referred pain, or pain perceived at a location
other than the site of the painful stimulus.
Weird 'Wiring' Masks
Pain Source
Ward Gypson, MD, sees referred pain in
many of his patients. As a UVA Health
physical medicine and rehabilitation physician,
he aims to maximize physical functioning
and reduce or eliminate pain through
physical therapy and other nonsurgical
treatments, including medication management,
minimally invasive injections and
spinal therapeutics.
Dr. Gypson educates his patients about
the phenomenon of referred pain. " When
someone has a heart attack, they can get pain,
numbness and tingling in their leſt arm. But
there is not any problem with the arm or the
nerves going to the arm, " he explains. " What
is happening is the brain is interpreting the
FALL 2021 VIM & VIGOR
pain messages from the heart as pain, numbness
and tingling in the arm. We have several
weird 'wiring' situations like this. Oſt en,
gallbladder pain can cause pain in the right
shoulder. And when neck muscles go into
spasm, the brain can interpret these pain
signals as pain in the arm. "
Overcoming Fear of Pain
Without knowing the cause, many people
focus on the symptoms. Th is may provide
some relief. Th e danger comes when
attempts at self-care are unsuccessful
and the pain doesn't stop. At
best, pain is annoying. It can
become a hindrance, it can
become debilitating and it
can become a source
of fear when the
cause is unknown
and the symptoms
persist. Chronic
pain is among the
most common reasons
that people seek medical
care.
When someone is mystifi ed or frightened
by persistent pain, the most important
message to convey is " that you are listening
to them and you are there to help them, " Dr.
Gypson says. " Some patients feel that they
are not believed or taken seriously. Some are
even apologetic when talking about their
pain. Making sure they understand that you
are taking them seriously and believe them is
vital. Once they are confi dent you are trying
to help them, they become much less anxious
and frightened. "
Your Pain
Is Real
Learn how UVA Health experts
can fi nd the root source of your
pain and create an individualized
rehabilitation plan to help
get you back to the work and
activities you love. Go to
uvahealth.com/rehab.
Ward Gypson, MD,
UVA Health
physical medicine
and rehabilitation
physician
PHOTOS BY UVA HEALTH AND GETTY IMAGES
http://www.uvahealth.com/rehab

Vim & Vigor - Fall 2021

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