What Is Pain and How is it Classified?

Pain is a warning system of our body and it makes us aware of dangers and likely injuries that may be caused if not corrective action is taken immediately. Pain also tells us that something is wrong in our body and compels us to take necessary action to set right the problems in our bodily system. Pain comes as an unpleasant sensation that hurts us making us feel the discomfort, distress and agony. When the sensation of pain becomes a continuous one it becomes an ache making it a throbbing pain or a pulsating pain with pinching or stabbing sensation.

Pain is a subjective and unique experience, to which only that individual can describe. Because of this phenomena, pain management has become quite complex. Currently, as a considerable piece of the healthcare puzzle, America’s top pain specialists have become more comprehensive in their approach to pain management.

Types of Pain

The pain can be divided into two different broad categories based on the severity and duration of the affliction. The two categories are classified as:

o Acute pain: Acute pain, such as an ankle sprain, presents with sudden onset and can be very intense, but short in duration. Usually this cease once the dysfunction is treated—usually with therapy or medication.

o Chronic pain: Characterized as a painful condition lasting for more than 3 months. This pain is either intense or mild, but always persistent.

Painful conditions are further classified as:
• Nociceptive
• Somatic
• Visceral
• Neuropathic
• Sympathetic

A pain becomes nociceptive pain when only a particular group of pain receptors are stimulated where they are able to sense the hot and cold temperatures, stretching, vibrations and the pain inducing chemicals released by injured or damaged cells.

Somatic pain is included in the nociceptive pain and it is mostly felt in the muscles, bones and ligaments, or inside the joints and on the skin and this is also called as musculo-skeletal pain. In this kind of pain in addition to the usual sensitivities these types of pain receptors become sensitive to inflammation also. Somatic pain is more localized and the site of the pain becomes sensitive to the touch or movements.

Visceral pain is types of nociceptive pain that originates from organ tissues of the body. Visceral pain may result in response to severe inflammation, overstretching or lack of oxygen supply leading the condition of ischemia. The nonspecific nature of visceral pain is perceived as a deep but vague ache that can radiate away from the affected organ; thus, making it difficult to locate.

Yet another common type of pain is nerve pain or neuropathic pain that is classified as a non-nociceptive pain emanating from the nervous system itself. Neural degeneration, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), trapping/pinching of nerves, slipping or tearing of a disc in the spinal cord or infections like shingles also lead to this type of neuropathic pain.

Sympathetic pain is also non-nociceptive in nature can occur after a fracture or a tissue injury of the limbs—sometimes the cause is simply unknown. There are no specific pain receptors and due to the damaging of the nerves they fire off random, abnormal signals to the brain that is mistakenly interpreted as pain. This very complex type of pain causes extreme sensitivity and is often debilitating.


Acute pain can be relatively straightforward in treating and have you back on your feet in a short period of time. Conversely, the complexity of treating chronic pain is immensely difficult and may take months heal. For those suffering from chronic pain, its best to seek a pain specialist committed to a comprehensive approach to pain management. Along with medication management, this approach may include minimally invasive nerve blocks, yoga, psychiatric support, nutrition/lifestyle change, physical medicine & rehab, acupuncture and other holistic treatments. Remember, “Most pain didn’t occur overnight and will not disappear overnight.” Strive to heal the mind, body and spirit.

Let us help you regain the quality in your life! Our multidisciplinary approach has many health professionals all under one roof. For information and consultations, please contact our office. For more articles about chronic pain and treatments, visit us online at www.PrizmPain.com


You may also be interested in:
The Causes and Treatments of Neuropathic Pain

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