The English language has several different words that describe various types of pain. There is pain, ache, sore, throb, hurt, and many more. Not to mention all those adjectives used to describe such pain: shooting, sharp, dull, and others.
All this is in an effort to categorize pain and describe it in the most precise way. Science, of course, took this classification to an entirely new level, providing causes and reasons for each type of pain.
There are three most common classifications of pain, so let’s try and understand them all.
This classification is created based on the pain location. More precisely, it is based on the type of organ that is causing the pain:
Somatic pain is pain that you feel in muscles, bones, joints, and skin. When something like this hurts, your brain is very precise about signaling where the pain actually is. In other words, you will never confuse whether it’s your thumb or your index finger that hurts. You’ll know right away.
Visceral pain is a bit different. That pain comes from any of the organs in your chest or abdomen. This type of pain is usually more diffuse. You are more likely to say that something hurts “in this area” than to pinpoint precisely that it’s your kidney that hurts. This is because your brain doesn’t have the means to check the precise location of this type of pain. It can only figure out a general area and then starts “guessing.”
How come the somatic pain is so much easier to pinpoint? Scientists believe that our defense mechanisms cause this. Somatic pains, which are pains coming from your skin, bones, and muscles, are usually pains that come from your environment.
If you can easily and quickly understand that you are being hurt by something, you can avoid it or stop it immediately. In other words, you can detect the danger and keep safe.
You can classify both somatic and visceral pains into these three types, as well. Here is how this classification works.
Nociceptive pain is your “usual” type of pain. There is some sort of damage somewhere in your body, and your nervous system signals your brain that something is wrong. When you hit your pinky toe on the corner of the bed, that’s nociceptive pain. It is also the pain you experience when your appendix gets inflamed. Your nervous system reports that there is a problem. This type of pain can change if you move, change position etc.
Neuropathic pain can happen even when there’s “nothing wrong.” It is actually caused by damage to the nervous system itself. It can be caused by the damage in the central nervous system, but also the peripheral. This type of pain can happen due to common injuries like hitting your elbow on “that place”. However, nerves can get damaged as a result of alcoholism, chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis, and others. You can feel it as an electric, burning, stabbing, and similar sensations.
Algopathic pain is a bit tricky to define. If you translate this literally from Greek, it would mean “pain disease.” More precisely, this includes all the pains that don’t fall into these first two categories. Other names for this pain are abnormal nociception, nociplastic pain, or even primary pain. The key concept here is that this is a pain that is the primary issue itself. In many cases, there is no apparent reason why it happens.
One of the most common examples of algopathic pain is fibromyalgia. There is no exact cause for fibromyalgia pain. It could be caused by lesions too small to be seen, or it could be a malfunction of the pain system.
It is quite apparent what fast pain is. You hit your pinky, and the pain is immediate. However, you have probably felt that other type of pain. The one that builds up over time and intensifies. That’s a slow pain.
Pain is there to warn us and protect us. The fact that there is a fast and a slow way to do it tells you a lot about the danger it protects you from.
Acute or fast pain is there to cause you to react to environmental danger instantly. It is your body’s way of telling you to move your hand away from that hot stove immediately before you damage your skin and underlying tissue too much. This type of pain is relayed via the fast A type of nerve fibers.
Chronic or slow pain, on the other hand, is relayed by the slow C type nerve fibers. Its function is not to make you react immediately. It is to slow you down, get you to rest and recuperate. It is your body’s way of telling you that there is something wrong that you are low in energy and that you need to preserve it until you are better.
There is still much to learn about the pain, its function, and the best way to treat them. In most cases, the only way to treat pain is to resolve the issue that is causing it. Unfortunately, this is not always possible because pain is frequently caused by incurable conditions or systemic illnesses. In that case, the only other option is to cure the pain itself and hope for the best.
Copyright 2019, Developed by Sharq.
Dr. Bagwe is an Orthopedic Surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri | As a world class lower extremity specialist Dr. Bagwe treats disorders of the knee, foot and ankle which cause acute or chronic pain. With several locations in the St. Louis metro area, we offer solutions for Arthritis, Sprains and strains, Bursitis and tendonitis, Fractures, sports related injuries, work related injuries, stress fracture, Cubital tunnel syndrome, Knee ligament tear (ACL, PCL, MCL and LCL), Meniscal (cartilage) tear, Heel spurs, Plantar fasciitis, Shin splints, Hammer toe and other toe disorders, Achilles tendon problems, Bunions, and more.