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As if your primary health condition didn’t cause enough suffering, you may have to deal with referred pain or overcompensation. While these complications have different causes, the result is pain in areas other than the source of a primary health condition or injury.

Understanding the difference between referred pain and overcompensation is important from a treatment perspective. Referred pain presents due to the brain misinterpreting the source of painful, physical stimulus. Overcompensating occurs when a secondary area of the body takes on additional stresses for a weak or injured area.

Referred Pain

Referred pain is the more complex of the two issues, as it is not fully understood. However, pain in a secondary area is typically associated with the same network of nerves as the primary stimulus. In simple terms, the result is the brain attempting to locate the source of the injured area and getting its wires mixed up.

A good example of referred pain is what is experienced during cardiac arrest. Pain in the neck and left arm results from the proximity of primary sensory neurons located on one ascending tract. In these cases, emergency medical personnel are more concerned with ensuring that the patient lives through the experience. However, when referred pain occurs in less lethal circumstances, there is still a potential risk to overall health and well-being.


You have likely heard the term “overcompensating” when referring to taking on a strenuous task that is beyond one’s capabilities. The same principle applies to expecting a particular area of the body to carry more than its fair share of the workload.

All the systems in your body have evolved to work in relative synchronicity. If your left leg is suffering from an injury or health condition, you may subconsciously put more pressure on the right leg. Eventually, the supporting limb will also start to crumble due to increased force distribution across muscles, tendons, soft tissues and bones.

The symptoms of referred pain and overcompensation are very similar. If you are already suffering from a joint health condition and pain develops in another area, call FullRange Spine & Ortho for diagnosis and treatment.

Posted on behalf of FullRange Spine & Ortho

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