Pain Levels: Learn the Different Types!

Pain is a subjective experience that accompanies nociception, however can also arise without any kind of stimuli and it includes the emotional response. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) says that, one should distinguish between pain and nociception. Nociception is a neurophysiologic term that denotes the activity in the nerve pathways. Although pain can be associated with tissue damage or inflammation, it’s not always the case and these pathways transmit unpleasant signals that are not always painful.

It’s a part of a what’s called the “rapid warning and defense relay”, instructing the motor neurons of the central nervous system to minimize detected physical harm. Despite its unpleasantness, pain is a critical component of the body’s defense system.

A theory concerning how cognitive and emotional factors might dramatically influence painful sensations is called the gate control theory of pain and rather than focusing on the perceived site of injury, it focuses on the different pain states at the brain.

Acute pain

Acute pain is the body’s warning of present damage to tissue or disease and is defined as short-term pain or pain with an easily identifiable cause. It’s often fast and sharp followed by aching pain. This type of pain responds well to medications but acute pain is centralized in one area before it somewhat spreads out.

Chronic pain

This constant or intermittent pain has often outlived its purpose, as it does not help the body to prevent injury. It is often more difficult to treat than acute pain. It’s medically defined as pain that has lasted 6 months or longer and expert care is generally necessary to treat any type of pain that has evolved into chronic.

There are 4 categories of physiological pain according to the source and related pain detecting nerves (nociceptors).

Cutaneous pain

Cutaneous nociceptor terminate just below the skin, and due to the high concentration of nerve endings, produce a well-defined, localized pain of short duration and is caused by injury to the skin or superficial tissues. Example injuries that produce cutaneous pain are paper cuts, minor burns and lacerations.

Somatic pain

The scarcity of pain receptors in these areas produces a dull, poorly localised pain of longer duration than cutaneous pain and originates from ligaments, tendons, bones, blood vessels, and even nerves themselves, and are detected with somatic nociceptors. Some examples of injuries that produce somatic pain include a sprained ankle and broken bones.

Visceral pain

Visceral nociceptors are located within body organs and internal cavities, visceral pain originates from body organs. The greater scarcity of nociceptors in these areas produces a pain usually more aching and those that last longer than somatic pain.

Myocardial ischaemia (the loss of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle tissue) is possibly the most well known example of referred pain. The sensation can likely occur in the upper chest as a restricted feeling, in the arm, hand or as an ache in the left shoulder. This type of pain is extremely difficult to localize.

Neuropathic pain or Neuralgia

Also known to occur as a result of injury or disease to the nerve tissue itself. It disrupts the ability of the sensory nerves to transmit correct information to the thalamus, causing the brain to interpret pain even if there is none.

Many people suffer from different types of pain like those listed above. When it comes to the topic of pain, people are sensitive and no one likes to be called a ‘wuss’ if they cry. Understand pain and show compassion when a friend is in need, you’ll be glad you did.

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