Referred pain elicits dull, aching pain that’s often challenging to localize. Many people can tell where the pain is going to, but have difficulty ascertaining where it is coming from. Frequently, referred pain originates with injured ligaments. For example, pain traveling from the low back into the leg and foot is usually from ligament weakness in the sacroiliac joint rather than a pinched sciatic nerve, as is often assumed.
Weakened ligaments as the source of referral pain have been documented for a long time, even though many clinicians are unaware of, or don’t fully understand, these ligament referral pain patterns. Dr. G. Hackett originally described the referral pain patterns of the hip, pelvis, lower back, and neck in 1958. Dr. Hackett also outlined these patterns during early observations after he performed more than 18,000 intraligamentous Prolotherapy injections to 1,656 patients over a period of 19 years. A more recent 2017 article in Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, noted that 60% of participants with low back pain experienced referred pain to the buttock, groin, and thigh areas, with numbness and tingling of the thigh and calf. Where did researchers conclude this pain originated? The sacroiliac ligament!
When a ligament is weak and overstretched, the sensory nerves become irritated, and can refer pain sensations to another area of the body. The sacroiliac ligaments refer pain down the leg to the lateral foot, which can result in a misdiagnosis of “sciatica” because it causes similar symptoms. Even when nerves are not implicated, patients misdiagnosed with “sciatica” are often subjected to numerous tests, anti-inflammatory medicines, and surgical procedures with unsatisfactory results. Regenerative treatments to strengthen the ligaments, including Prolotherapy and PRP, can provide a viable, more conservative option to restore ligament integrity, thereby addressing the source of the problem and relieving the pain naturally.