Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Nerves interconnect our internal organs, also called viscera, and our musculoskeletal parts, or soma. Trauma, inflammation, or infection in the viscera or soma, can cause symptoms or functional changes in the other. These 2-way influences are called viscerosomatic and somatovisceral reflexes, depending on the direction of the signals.
Though not usually understood as such, one of the most common examples of a viscerosomatic reflex is the low back pain that very often accompanies a woman’s menstrual period. What is virtually unknown to most American women, and apparently most doctors, is that low back pain, or low back dysfunction without pain, can initiate the somatovisceral side of the cycle, often resulting in the causation or worsening of pelvic menstrual symptoms. (The most common types of dysfunction in the back and neck are tight muscles and stiff joints.)
To emphasize the critical importance and breadth of effect, here is a brief list of other viscerosomatic and somatovisceral reflexes:
Most Americans know that kidney infections can cause back pain. Most Americans don’t know that back dysfunction can affect kidney function.
An impending or acute heart attack can cause chest pain, upper back pain, left arm pain, and/or pain on the left side of the neck, jaw or head. Dysfunction in the neck or upper back can influence heart function.
Digestive problems in the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon can cause back pain. Spinal dysfunction in the neck, upper back or lower back can have negative impacts such as constipation, diarrhea, intestinal gas, nausea, or digestive pain.
Inflammation or disease in the liver and gall bladder can cause back pain.
Respiratory problems such as asthma can cause back pain, while back problems can cause respiratory symptoms.
Pancreatitis can cause back pain.
Moral: When you have back pain, or a problem with an internal organ, remember that your insides are connected to your outsides. When you didn’t injure your back, but it hurts, think of your insides.
(Note: Autonomic Nervous System Chart, above, available at DCFirst.com)