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Referred muscle pain: Clinical and pathophysiologic aspects

Abstract

Referred pain, that is, pain perceived in an area other than that in which the noxious stimulation takes place, is very frequent in the clinical setting. There are various forms of referred muscle pain from viscera and from somatic structures. Examples of the latter are referred pain from one muscle to another muscle (as in myofascial pain syndromes) and referred pain from joints (as in osteoarthritis of the knee). Whatever the origin of the symptom, a condition of secondary hyperalgesia very often takes place in the referred zones, together with trophic tissue changes. Referred muscle pain from viscera without hyperalgesia is explained on the basis of the convergence of visceral and somatic afferent fibers on the same central neurons.

Referred muscle pain from viscera with hyperalgesia is not completely understood; it is hypothesized that it is due to both central (sensitization process) and peripheral (intervention of reflex arcs) mechanisms. Referred muscle pain from other muscles or from joints is not easily explained by the mechanism of “central convergence” in its original form, because in dorsal horn neurons there is little convergence from deep tissues. It has been proposed that convergent connections from deep tissues to dorsal horn neurons are not present from the beginning but are opened by nociceptive input from skeletal muscle, and referral to myotomes outside the lesion is due to a spread of central sensitization to adjacent spinal segments.

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Vecchiet, L., Vecchiet, J. & Giamberardino, M.A. Referred muscle pain: Clinical and pathophysiologic aspects. Current Review of Pain 3, 489–498 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-999-0077-y

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Keywords

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pain Threshold
  • Hypertonic Saline
  • Visceral Pain
  • Myofascial Pain Syndrome