A search term on my blog today was ‘dermatome chart.’ I couldn’t remember in the last 3 or so years ever doing a post about dermatomes so I searched that word on my blog myself and the only thing that came up was my Referred Pain post. These two things are entirely different and I realized when re-reading the Referred Pain post that I didn’t explain it very well. Dermatomes have nothing at all to do with referred pain. Referred pain means you get a pain somewhere else than the area that is actually messed up. Like when you have pain down your left arm during a heart attack – that’s referred pain.
A dermatome is an area of the body that specifically corresponds to a certain spinal segment. When you have pain in a certain dermatome, you also feel pain or some other symptom in an area other than the area that is actually messed up but when there are symptoms in a dermatomal pattern, it’s a spinal issue. For instance – pain, tingling, or numbness in the right thumb means there is probably something wrong with your right-sided C6/C7 spinal segment. Even though your neck may not hurt. Provided no one smashed your hand with a hammer. But hey if that’s what you’re into……. If you have pain, tingling, or numbness in your pinky finger up through your triceps there’s probably something going on at C8/T1. If your toes are hurting, or tingling or numb, one of your sacral nerve roots is probably all jacked up. Provided your foot didn’t just get run over by a truck or something. These kind of symptoms are called radiculopathy. I wrote about that before.
So referred pain – pain (usually from a crappy organ) felt in a whole other part of the body.
Radiculopathy/dermatomal pain- symptoms originating in the spine that are following the length of the nerve and felt somewhere other than the spine itself.