Exploring the Different Types and Classifications of Pain

The underlying cause of the pain has a huge role to play in determining the kind of pain you’ll experience. Pain is subjective, and this is why it might be difficult for you to describe it to anyone. The communication between your brain, spinal cord, and nerves lets you know about the sensation of pain, and this is essential because it immediately indicates if something is wrong with the body.

Irrespective of the cause of the pain, it will remain an unpleasant experience that affects you both physically and emotionally. People respond to pain in their ways, and that is why a certain kind of pain might be bearable for one person but may incapacitate the other one. Even though no two people will have the same experience with pain, it is still possible to categorize the different types of pain.

Your body processes each pain differently, making it important to define the kind of pain you’re experiencing. Without proper explanation, your physician or any doctor at the orthopedic specialty clinic will not be able to determine the type of treatment effectively. By pinpointing him in the right direction and through facilitated doctor-patient communication, you will be able to manage or overcome the pain faster.

Chronic Pain

The pain that lasts for more than six months, even when the underlying problem has been treated is called chronic pain. The pain can last for years, and its severity is not the same each day. Unfortunately, chronic pain is quite common in the United States and affects 50 million adults. While there’s no apparent cause for the pain, past injuries, damage, or diseases like arthritis can lead to it. If not tended to, chronic pain can deteriorate your quality of life, and the sufferer may even develop symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Acute Pain

Acute pain is a short-term pain that surfaces suddenly due to a specific cause. It doesn’t last for long and usually goes away within six months, once the underlying source is treated. The main reason for acute pain is damage to the tissues, muscles, bones, or organs. This type of pain tends to start sharp, but gradually the intensity reduces with time and treatment. It is often accompanied by anxiety and emotional distress. But, the good thing about acute pain is that it isn’t lifelong, and goes away when treated the right way.

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is the result of dysfunction or damage from your nervous system, where the problematic nerves are involved in firing pain signals without any underlying cause. This pain is out of nowhere instead of being a response to an injury or an ailment. Trivial things like cold or clothing against your skin can also cause this kind of pain. The pain can be described as freezing, burning, numbness, stabbing, tingling, or electric shocks. Most of the neuropathic pain is chronic and below are some of the types of pain caused by dysfunctional nerves:

  • Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathic Pain–Diabetes causes nerve damage in the arms, hands, feet, and legs, known as diabetic neuropathy, which causes various kinds of pain including stabbing, tingling, and burning.
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome–Described as persistent burning, this is the kind of pain that is followed by a serious injury. Symptoms like abnormal sweating, swelling, or changes in skin color may be noticed in the affected area.
  • Central Pain Syndrome–This chronic pain syndrome is marked by damage in the central nervous system. A stroke, multiple sclerosis, or any type of tumor may be the reason behind the damage. The pain is usually severe and worsens with time if the underlying problem is ignored.

Nociceptive Pain

Being the most common type of pain, it is caused by nociceptors that are pain receptors for tissue injury. Your entire body, including your skin and organs, is lined with nociceptors that are pain receptors for tissue injuries. When they’re stimulated because of a cut, burn, or any other type of injury, they send electrical signals to your brain and this causes you to feel the pain. This is the type of pain that you usually feel when you incur an injury and it can be classified as either acute or chronic.

Somatic Pain

The stimulation of the pain receptors in your tissues leads to somatic pain. You can easily know the area from where the pain is originating,and it feels like a gnawing sensation or constant aching. Your skin, muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissues are the areas where you’ll feel this pain. From bone fractures to a tear in your tendon, from skin cuts to strained muscles, from connective tissue disorders like osteoporosis to joint pain in arthritis, all such types of pains are categorized as somatic pain.

Visceral Pain

Visceral pain is aroused when an injury or damage is caused to the internal organs of the body. You can feel it in the trunk area but cannot indicate the exact location of the pain. It can stem from the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. Apart from the aching and pressure, you may also feel nausea or vomiting as your body undergoes major changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Some major causes of visceral pain include appendicitis, gallstones, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Psychogenic Pain

This is an additional term that is used to describe the sensation of pain but is not an official diagnostic term for it. It is associated with a certain degree of psychological disturbance and abuse that leads to prolonged periods of anxiety and depression. Increased stress takes a toll on our body, and if our mental health is not in complete check, it can have adverse effects on it. There are high chances that a pain management specialist or an accident injury doctor will not be able to present a solution for this and you would need to resort to a psychiatrist.

“Other” Types of Pains

There are a few pains that cannot be placed in any of the above-mentioned categories but are experienced by people commonly. One prominent example is that of ‘fibromyalgia’ that has been historically referred to as functional pain disorder. Other examples that can be put into this category include:

  • Non-specific chronic low-back pain
  • Unexplained headache
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome


If you want to know more about your pain, you have to keep track of it. Start noting the symptoms and if possible, write them down somewhere. Know the cause that initiated it, keep a check on the activities and movements that make it worse for you, and notice how long it lasts. Having complete knowledge of your condition will help you in getting a quick diagnosis once you consult a pain specialist.

It is better not to delay the doctor’s visit for a long time. Your condition may worsen and it might become difficult to treat the problem altogether. Pain is a very personal experience and others can’t understand your condition as they are not in your shoes. Do not take it lightly and consult a specialist as soon as you get the first chance.