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A question about nerves.

Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Medicine. Anything human!

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A question about nerves.

Postby Daly » Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:07 pm

I've been very curious about something that's been happening to me for several years, although not too often. There are some places on my body that, when I pinch them, I feel a slight pain in another place on my body as well. If I pinch the same places the resulting pain is in the same location, though sometimes when I try to pinch the same place I feel no secondary pain at all (most likely I am just missing the nerve). I initially thought there was some correlation between the two locations because there was one place on the inside of my arm (inside as in as opposed to facing away from my body) and the other pain was in an area near where I pinched were I to place my arms at my sides, however I have had pain in my back from pinching my front-right lower rib area, so, that idea got thrown out the window. I've never heard of any medical condition that would cause something like this, and whenever I bring it up people always seem a little surprised. Could this possibly stem from damage/malformation in my spinal cord, or could it just be my brain crossing signals? Any insight or information anyone has would be greatly appreciated.
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Postby biohazard » Mon Dec 15, 2008 1:29 pm

It's been a while since my last anatomy lesson, but if I recall correctly, what you described is a completely physiological phenomenon. I'm not sure about the exact terms, but it has something to do sensory neurons entering the spine from the same location, and thus sharing axons or some other components. Hence when a pain signal enters the spine, it can simultaneously stimulate other neurons at the same location, even though they innervate a different place of the body altogether. Thus the signal coming from the actual site of the stimulus can "fool" the nervous system that another location is stimulated as well. I have personally experienced this many times. I'm not sure if there is some physical or anatomical trait that makes some people more likely to experience this, because many people apparently have never noticed such thing.

Occasionally of course some kind of disease or injury can cause similar symptoms: e.g. if there's a tumour pressing a neuron the pain can sometimes be localised elsewhere, or radiate to some other places in the body. But as long as your "symptoms" occur when you pinch yourself, you should be just fine ;)
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