A reader recently asked me:
How does the menstrual cycle impact the muscular system? Why do I get hip tightness, even leg pain? I have a feeling there’s some referred pain happening. I’d like to find the source and maybe learn some stretches to ease this hurt!
An excellent question, and a tough one to answer confidently. “Referred pain” seems like a strong hypothesis though—just like the notoriously weird and distinct referred pain from a failing heart to the jaw, neck, shoulder, arm. Referred heart pain is often so unlike the chest pain we expect that patients may have no idea there’s something wrong with their heart! Of course, referred pain isn’t exactly well explained itself, but in a nutshell, the nervous system is surprisingly inept at precisely locating internal pain and gets “confused” about where it’s coming from.
And so, hip and leg pain during menstruation is probably “just” referred pain from the uterus. But I’m guessing.
This is one of those topics that I look at and think, “How have I not written anything about this yet?!” It seems ridiculous. I guess I was preoccupied with hundreds of others. Pain and musculoskeletal medicine is vast!