The body has three main types of chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts 3 months or longer. Chronic pain is not easily healed or moderated by at-home remedies, and typically requires the attention of a pain specialist. There is not always a known cause of chronic pain, whereas other times, the pain is a lingering symptom of an injury or accident.
When pain lasts for any length of time, there can be changes in the spinal cord and how the brain perceives pain. Chronic pain can affect the entire central nervous system, resulting in severe pain that is hard to treat. It can be become so debilitating and problematic that it is often accompanied by depression or other psychological issues.
There are two main types of chronic pain in the human body: neuropathic and nociceptive pain.
Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain that is a result of tissue injury or nerve damage. Instead of a physical injury, neuropathy is caused by damage to the nerves themselves. The damaged nerve fibers change the nerve function and send incorrect signals to the brain. These signals are oftentimes faulty due to a malfunction in the way nerves transmit pain signals to the brain.
The body contains a network of nerves that make up the peripheral nerve system. Chronic pain occurs when these nerves are injured or diseased. Approximately 30% of neuropathic pain is caused by diabetes, but it is not always easy to determine the source of pain.
Sources of Neuropathic Pain
It is estimated that 10% of Americans experience some form of neuropathic pain. In fact, 1 in 3 Americans experience chronic pain, and of those patients, 20% of them suffer from neuropathic pain.
Neuropathic pain is caused by:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Facial Nerve Problems
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Nociceptive pain is caused by an injury, inflammation of a body part, or by physical pressure. This type of pain can be divided further into two categories, depending on where the pain originates.
Receptors, called nociceptors, exist solely for the purpose to feel any and all pain that the body experiences. The pain can cause physical damage or mechanical damage to parts of the body. The nociceptors can also detect thermal and chemical pain, caused by toxic or hazardous chemicals and extreme temperatures.
There are two types of nociceptive pain: somatic pain and visceral pain. Although somatic and visceral pain is detected by the same types of nerves, they do not feel the same. The triggers for each type can be similar.
Somatic pain is pain that originates in your arms, legs, face, muscles, tendons, and extrinsic areas of the body. Soma- is the Greek word for “body,” meaning the pain comes from injruies to the outer body. It can feel like an ache, throbbing sensation, or as a sharp pain. This type of pain is detected by the nerves located in the skin, tissues, or muscles.
Somatic pain is triggered by an acute injury or chronic disease such as a cut, bruise, arthritis, or joint injuries.
Visceral pain is detected by nociceptors in internal organs that contain sensory nerves that transmit signals to the brain after an injury. Viscera is the Latin term for organs that are inside a cavity, such as the abdomen.
This type of pain is caused by conditions such as stomach infections, constipation, cancer, or internal bleeding. Visceral pain does not always appear in the affected area. This is called referred pain.
Unlike somatic pain, visceral pain is commonly associated with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and jitteriness.
It is important to understand the differences between the two types of chronic pain. The type of chronic pain you experience determines the treatment type that your pain specialist will recommend and implement to help reduce your pain. Pain can severely limit your daily activities or routine, so if you suffer from chronic pain, talk to your doctor today.