What causes the nervous system to send a signal that you’re receiving pain in a different location then you actually are?


This happens a lot when getting tattooed. Sometimes it feels like the pain from one spot travels somewhere else. I’ve heard people say they feel a spot on their arm in their hip, or a spot on their leg in their shoulder.

Today I was getting the side of my calf tattooed, near the back of the knee, and I actually felt the pain mirrored on the other side of that same leg, almost as if it was going right through. It was such a strange feeling that it made me laugh in pain. Like wtf brain?!

What causes the brain to mix up nervous system signals like this?

In: Biology

So I don’t know for sure why they get mixed up but in your skin you have somatosensory cells which are responsible for “feeling “. The channel of the nervous system (I.e. your spinal cord) in which the signal of pain gets sent to the brain are lateralized , meaning the left side of the body has a path and the right side has a path. They cross over each other a couple of times and both go through similar brain regions. I assume that during a crossover or while the signal is being processed in a brain region the signal gets sent down the opposite channel. Again, I’m not sure but that is my best guess based on my knowledge and I am a PhD student in cognitive psychology.

All I know is that it’s called referred pain, so I’ll let the internet take over: “Simply stated, referred pain happens because the nerves in your body are all connected.

When your body experiences a pain stimulus, your nervous system carries the signal to your brain. The brain then sends a signal to your body that you’re experiencing pain.

Sometimes, because of how nerves are wired in your body, your brain will send a pain signal to a different part of your body than the area where the pain stems from.

Also, synapses and reflexes that you may not even be aware of can also be the reason pain signals are sent to one area of the body as a sign of a medical issue in another area.

Researchers are still working to understand the exact mechanism and reason why your body has this type of reaction.” Via healthline.com