Pain, not always a strain or sprain!


Pain, not always a strain or sprain!

Did you know that to experience pain in your body, you do not have to only have to sprain a ligament or strain a muscle. Think of your body as a machine and of your organs as cogs that keep the machine running. Each cog in a machine plays a critical role, that’s why it was built into the machine. Just like these cogs our organs, like the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and many more play a vital role in keeping healthy. So when something is amiss with these organs you will experience pain. Sometimes the pain that is caused by an affected organ can be felt in a completely different area of the body, to where that organ is located. Thus, leading many of us thinking that there is something wrong with our bodies only where we feel pain.

The phenomenon is called either viscero-somatic pain or a viscero-somatic reflex (viscero refers to organ, and somatic means body part).  Viscero-somatic pain is defined as pain that comes from an organ which is felt in a specific body part. for each organ, there is a specific body part/s that you will generally experience the pain in. this is bases on the how the nervous system works through the entire body.

For example when some has a heart attack, it is characterized by symptoms of chest pain. However many people will also experience pain in the left side of their neck, left of the jaw, the left shoulder and the left arm. Due to the fact that when the heart muscle becomes devoid of oxygen from a blocked artery, a nerve signal is sent to the spinal cord and the brain to alert it that something is wrong. In the same level of the spinal cord where the heart signals enter, there are also other nerves entering cord that relate directly to the muscles and skin from the neck, jaw, shoulder and arm. The theory is that due to the close proximity of the nerves in the spinal cord, the brain cannot distinguish where the problem is coming from. This is why a person having a heart attack may feel pain in both the chest and areas mentioned above. This reasoning also explains why you may experience pain in the abdomen and right shoulder, when the liver and gallbladder are affected.

As an osteopath, if we suspect that you are experiencing viscero-somatic pain, we will use a holistic approach to look for the signs and symptoms.

These might include:

  • Pain that is deep, diffuse and difficult to localise
  • Pain that is difficult to reproduce in the clinic room
  • Changes in the skin, such as sweating, dryness, redness or changes in sensation
  • Changes in the muscles, such as spasm or rigidity
  • Pain which is unaffected by activity or rest

To give the best service and appropriate treatment, we will ask you in-depth questions about your medical history, to ensure that we get to the root cause of your aliment. Some of our treatment techniques may be target at the affected organs. You osteopath will always talk to you about the treatment before performing it. Should we feel it necessary we will refer you to a GP or specialist to ensure that you rest the appropriate and best possible care.


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 Full Circle Osteopathy. 2019. Pain from within – Why pain isn’t always a strain or sprain — Full Circle Osteopathy. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 December 2021].

Holistic Bodyworks. 2019. Viscero-somatic pain – Why pain isn’t always a strain or sprain. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 December 2021].