Types of Pain

There are various classification systems of pain. Pain is most commonly classified by duration (acute vs. chronic pain), location, or by its cause. 

The classification based on the pathophysiology of the pain traditionally identified two main types of pain:  nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. 

  • Nociceptive: pain that is caused by actual or threatened tissue damage
  • Neuropathic: pain caused by a lesion or disease of the nervous system

Nociceptive pain, the most common type of pain, is caused by (potential) damage to tissue. 
Nociceptive Pain is often further divided as either sharp, somatic pain or dull, visceral pain.

Examples of somatic nociceptive pain:

  • Burn
  • Fractures
  • Incisions, Wounds
  • Cellulitis
  • Shingles
  • Arthritis
  • Gout
  • Musculo-skeletal Pain

Examples of visceral nociceptive pain:

  • Tumor invasion
  • Obstructions (bowel, ureter, bile duct)
  • Colic
  • Angina
  • Pancreatitis

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to peripheral or central nerves. Neuropathic pain very frequently later develops into a form of chronic pain.

Examples of neuropathic pain:

  • Peripheral neuropathy (diabetes, HIV, chemotherapy, radiation treatment)
  • Neuralgia (e.g trigeminal neuralgia) usually from nerve damage
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Plexopathy

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