A viscerosomatic response or VSR is when the internal organs are going through some distress, illness, or injury, causing pain symptoms. An example is the right shoulder presenting with pain when the gall bladder is inflamed. The pain signals are transmitted through the spinal cord, and the muscles in the area could spasm, creating sensitivity or pain when touched. However, viscerosomatic pain is often not worsened or changed by bending, reaching, or twisting in different directions causing musculoskeletal/MSK pain. Without a thorough exam, it’s easy to confuse a VSR with an MSK or basic back ache. Individuals may sometimes feel visceral pain more through emotional symptoms like anger, anguish, or sadness than physical discomfort. Causation varies for everybody and can overlap with underlying conditions.
Table of Contents
The visceral organs’ pain receptors are not as tightly packed or evenly spread out, which makes finding the pain’s source challenging to pinpoint. The most common causes include:
A process of the body’s white blood cells protecting the body from infections, bacteria, and viruses. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system reacts as if normal tissues are infected or have changed and attacks them causing damage. But in some conditions, like arthritis, the body’s immune system triggers inflammation despite no infections, bacteria, or viruses. When inflammation activates, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells enter the blood or tissues to protect the body raising the blood flow to the injured or infected area. Symptoms include:
- Chemicals can cause fluid to leak into the tissues.
The symptoms depend on which organs are affected. Examples include:
- Inflammation of the heart/myocarditis can cause shortness of breath and/or fluid buildup.
- Inflammation of the tiny tubes in the respiratory system can cause shortness of breath.
- Inflammation of the kidneys/nephritis can cause high blood pressure and/or kidney failure.
Decreased blood circulation can strain areas of the body. The body pulls oxygen into the lungs that enter the blood. It travels throughout the body through blood vessels, veins, and arteries. If circulation becomes obstructed or gets stopped, a severe problem called ischemia can develop. This means areas of the body are not getting enough blood and enough oxygen. Ischemia usually originates from a buildup, blockage in the arteries, or a blood clot. Atherosclerosis is plaque, a hard, sticky substance made mostly of fat that collects in the arteries. It builds up slowly over time and can harden and narrow the arteries slowing down blood flow because the blood has less space to circulate.
Swelling occurs when excess fluids are trapped in the body’s tissues, which can cause the affected organs to enlarge and stretch. Swelling can be internal or external. Internal swelling is usually caused by:
Menstrual cramps are throbbing, aching cramps experienced in the lower stomach just before and during a woman’s monthly period. They can range from mild to severe but are common and can strike right before and/or during the menstrual cycle. Some women can experience dysmenorrhea. Symptoms include:
- Aching in the stomach
- Pressure in the stomach
- Pain in the hips, low back, and inner thighs.
Severe cramp symptoms can include:
- Upset stomach
- Loose stools
Cysts and Tumors
- Cysts and/or tumors in the pelvic or abdomen region can cause distress, irritation, inflammation, swelling, and pain viscerosomatic and musculoskeletal.
Chiropractic Causation Diagnosis
There is a connection between the spinal nerves and internal organ function. Internal organs connect to the brain through the spinal cord and nerve ganglia plexuses. The organs cannot function properly if the transmitted signals are interrupted or blocked. A chiropractor uses manual and mechanized manipulation to realign the spine. Chiropractic treatment diagnoses causation, restores joint function, eliminates pain, and prevents further injury, preventing degeneration and slowing disease processes in bone, muscle, and organs.
Bath M, Owens J. Physiology, Viscerosomatic Reflexes. [Updated 2022 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559218/
Berrueta, Lisbeth, et al. “Stretching Impacts Inflammation Resolution in Connective Tissue.” Journal of cellular physiology vol. 231,7 (2016): 1621-7. doi:10.1002/jcp.25263
Carver AC, Foley KM. Types of Pain. In: Kufe DW, Pollock RE, Weichselbaum RR, et al., editors. Holland-Frei Cancer Medicine. 6th edition. Hamilton (ON): BC Decker; 2003. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK12991/
Sikandar, Shafaq, and Anthony H Dickenson. “Visceral pain: the ins and outs, the ups and downs.” Current opinion in supportive and palliative care vol. 6,1 (2012): 17-26. doi:10.1097/SPC.0b013e32834f6ec9
The information herein on "Causation of Visceral Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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