Common Types of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain has many categories. Each type of chronic pain needs to be approached and treated differently for effectiveness. Certain types of chronic pain will vary in intensity. It can also affect a person’s quality of life at home and work.

Types of chronic pain will fall into one or two categories:

Neuropathic Pain: This type of pain occurs when there is nerve damage. These nerves lead to and from the spine. These nerves are the transmitters of pain to the brain. If the central nervous system is damaged, this can also cause neuropathic pain. Physicians may find it challenging to pinpoint where and how the nerves were damaged. Patients have reported pain symptoms including a stabbing or burning sensation. Examples of neuropathic pain include:

  • Phantom limb syndrome
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Sciatica
  • Spine surgery
  • Shingles
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Nociceptive Pain: This pain triggered by damaged soft tissue or organs. Nociceptors will detect noxious stimuli that can potentially cause harm to the body. Nociceptors will send information to the spinal cord and the brain leading to the perception of pain. Examples of nociceptive pain include:

Somatic Pain – Caused by injuries to the body including skin, ligaments, tendons, joints, muscles, etc. Somatic pain is usually easy to identify where it originated. the pain can be sharp, throbbing or burning depending on the area injured.

  • Tension headaches
  • Bruised or cut skin
  • Back pain
  • Arthritis

Visceral Pain – Unlike somatic pain, visceral pain comes from sensory nerves in the internal organs. Visceral pain can radiate to other areas of the body making the pain’s origin a little more difficult to locate. For example, if you have kidney issues, your lower back may become painful.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bladder damage
  • Prostate pain
  • Kidney damage

Psychogenic Pain – This term is used to describe a psychological disorder (depression, anxiety or stress) that causes pain. It’s difficult to treat those with psychogenic because there is no physical cause. This type of pain is very real and cannot be treated with any kind of pain medication. Alternative treatments such as counseling or relaxation therapy is needed.

Idiopathic Pain – This type of pain has no detectable or organic cause making it difficult to treat. Nobody truly understands how idiopathic pain is created. Many doctors are still trying to understand this form of pain. Types of idiopathic pain may include:

  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) – Jaw pain that causes headaches.
  • Ice Pack Headaches – Pain in the nerves of the eyes.
  • Vulvodynia – Pelvic pain in women with no obvious causes.
  • Persistent Idiopathic Facial Pain (PIFP) – Burning or stabbing pains in the face with no obvious cause.

Understanding the different types of chronic pain can be difficult for both physicians and patients. As you read above, some types of chronic pain don’t have an origin for physicians to pinpoint. Patients have to accurately describe the pain they’re feeling while physicians have to figure out the cause and the most proper and effective treatment.

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