Finding the source – referred pain
If you have pain in the knee or back you probably think something is wrong with your knee or back.
You see your doctor, perhaps get an X-ray or MRI scan.
But what if these investigations don’t show a problem? You still have pain in your knee but your doctor is saying there is nothing wrong.
Or worse, you receive a lot of treatment (sometimes including surgery!) but make no progress?
Sometimes the brain gets confused, making you think that one part of the body hurts when in fact, the real source of trouble is elsewhere. This curious (and clinically important) phenomenon is known as referred pain.
I have written many articles about the importance of correct diagnosis and looking at the whole body. This is critical when dealing with referred pain – where the actual problem in one part of the body causes pain or symptoms elsewhere.
It can be a key reason why treatment is unsuccessful – you’re treating the wrong place!
Hip joint pain can be confusing. Not only are there many causes but most people are unsure as to where their hip joint actually is.
True hip joint pain is usually felt in the groin area (where the leg bone attaches to the pelvis) and this is different from upper thigh pain, outer thigh pain, buttock pain or even side pain which can often be due to other issues.
Then there may be referred pain from lower back problems and sciatic pain. People also complain of knee pain due to issues in the hips.
Get a full, clinical assessment – your practitioner should take a full history, look at how you move and walk, you will probably have to take your clothes off! It takes time.
Recently I had a patient complaining of pain in her right hip however, when we assessed her we found the right hip pain was due to her compensating for the left. She could have had a new hip and still be struggling.