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Chapter: Medical Physiology: Somatic Sensations: II. Pain, Headache, and Thermal Sensations

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Referred Pain

Often a person feels pain in a part of the body that is fairly remote from the tissue causing the pain.

Referred Pain

Often a person feels pain in a part of the body that is fairly remote from the tissue causing the pain. This is called referred pain. For instance, pain in one of the visceral organs often is referred to an area on the body surface. Knowledge of the different types of referred pain is important in clinical diagnosis because in many visceral ailments the only clinical sign is referred pain.


Mechanism of Referred Pain. Figure 48–5 shows the prob-able mechanism by which most pain is referred. In the figure, branches of visceral pain fibers are shown to synapse in the spinal cord on the same second-order neurons (1 and 2) that receive pain signals from the skin. When the visceral pain fibers are stimulated, pain signals from the viscera are conducted through at least some of the same neurons that conduct pain signals from the skin, and the person has the feeling that the sensations originate in the skin itself.


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