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What is Radiating Pain and Its Causes?

What is Radiating Pain?

Pains that travel from one part of the body to other parts are known as radiating pains. Sometimes these pains spread to a larger area. If in case, someone gets hurt on a specific area and the nerve gets affected, it would hurt all along the nerve instead of the area of injury. If someone has neck pain, it may radiate down to the arm and to the hand. Radiating pains have many causes and sometimes may indicate a serious underlying condition.

Causes of Radiating Pain

When a particular body part is damaged or diseased, the nerves surrounding that area send signals to the spinal cord. The signals then travel to the brain that recognizes the pain in the damaged area.(1) As the nerves all over the body are connected, the pain signals can travel throughout the body.

Causes of Pain Radiating Down The Legs

Pain radiating down the legs has the following causes:


The sciatic nerve routes down from the lumbar spine to the butt and branches off to the legs. Pain along this nerve is known as sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy.

The pain runs from back down to one leg and may cause:

  • Pain that would get worse with movement
  • Numbness in the legs and feet
  • Foot pain
  • Painful tingling in toes and feet
  • Burning sensation in the legs

Sciatica has a number of causes including the condition of the spine and nerves of the back.

Lumbar Herniated Disc

A herniated or a slipped disc is caused by a ruptured or a torn disc in the vertebrae. The spinal disc is soft jellylike in the center and tough rubbery from the outside. If the interior moves out through the tear in the outer side it can put pressure on the surrounding nerves. This, when occur in the lumbar spine is known as a lumbar herniated disc. There is a sharp burning pain in the butt, thigh and calf muscle along with numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome occurs due to pressure on the piriformis muscle.

It leads to pain in the butt that travels down the leg. Along with pain, there is:

  • Tingling and numbness that radiates to the back
  • Pain that aggravates on sitting for long
  • Difficulty in sitting comfortably
  • Pain in the buttock that worsens during daily activity

Spinal Stenosis

Narrowing of the spinal column is known as spinal stenosis. The narrowing of the column leads to pressure on the nerve on the back and cause pain.

Along with radiating pain in the leg, the other symptoms of lumbar stenosis are:

Causes of Pain That Radiates To The Back


Gallstones lead to blockage of the gallbladder and there is extreme pain in the epigastric region that radiates to the back.

The pain is mostly felt after eating fatty food and there is bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, clay-colored stool, and nausea along.

Acute Pancreatitis

The pain in acute pancreatitis occurs in the upper abdominal area and radiates to the back.

The other symptoms include:

Advanced Prostate Cancer

If the prostate cancer spreads to bones like the spine, pelvis, and ribs it causes pain that radiates to the back.

Causes of Pain Radiating to Chest and Ribs

Thoracic Herniated Disc

A thoracic herniated disc may cause pressure against the nerves that lead to back pain that radiates to the chest. Along with pain, there is tingling, numbness, and weakness in the legs.

Peptic Ulcers

Sores in the lining of the stomach and intestine are termed as peptic ulcers. It leads to abdominal pain that radiates to the chest and ribs. The patients may also experience nausea, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, dark and bloody stools, and poor appetite.

Causes of Pain Radiating Down The Arm

Cervical Herniated Disc

A cervical herniated disc can lead to cervical radiculopathy. The pain, in this case, begins in the neck and travels down the arm. There may be numbness, tingling in hands and fingers, muscle weakness, and pain in neck movements.

Bone Spurs

Bone spurs can lead to cervical radiculopathy and cause radiating pains to the arm.

Heart Attack

Pain during a heart attack may travel to the left arm. The symptoms along would be chest pain with tightness, cold sweat, shortness of breath, and pain in the upper body.
Mild pains would resolve on own but in case of pains related to heart attack and peptic ulcer, immediate medical help is required.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 1, 2021

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