When I get indigestion, I feel it in my wrist

When I get indigestion, as well as feeling it around my stomach, I also have a burning pain in the back of my right wrist.

I have discovered that this is probably a case of something called referred pain. Good, maybe I’m not crazy.

But at that wikipedia article, it seems to say that cases of referred pain are due to damaged nerves that serve both areas involved in the referral. (It also says the phenomenon is not well understood, however.) So where would the nerves from my arm and from my stomach meet? Somewhere around my neck, I guess?

Damage to nerves in my neck, possibly due (as the article says) to compression. This actually sounds kind of bad when you put it this way.

Do I need to see a doctor?


When you want medical advice, always come to the SDMB first. You don’t need any doctors. You just need to pull your arm out of your mouth.



Referred pain does not at all have to indicate damaged nerves.

The classic example is the person who, while suffering from angina or a heart attack, gets pain in his/her left arm (or both arms, or neck, or even nose - yes!)

Although referred pain might indicate nerve damage, it typically occurs when the origin of the pain is an area that’s not well “represented” in the brain. In other words, it happens when the pain is emanating from a part of the body that has a very poor, or no, area of the brain (actually the cortex) controlling it or monitoring it (e.g. the heart, the bowels, the stomach, etc., have very little “cortical representation”. So, when the pain is originating from one of them, the brain is compelled to interpret it as pain from a nearby, and better represented organ or site). Generally, in such scenarios, the body uses a strategy whereby the pain seems to be coming from a more familiar part of the body. Indeed, as alluded to, iit often is referred to an area which once, itself, was the source of pain.

A great example of referred pain was noted among fliers in WWII. While in the air, some of them got horrible pain in their teeth whereas others got pain that was located in the areas of the sinuses. Turns out that the pain was from the changing air pressure irriatating the sinuses. Fliers who had a history of dental work, however, tended to feel the pain as coming from the teeth that had once been worked on (this was especially the case if their dentists had not used anesthesia). OTOH, those fliers who had never had much, if any, dental work, were able to perceive correctly that the pain was coming from their sinuses.