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Understanding Different Types of Pain

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

By Marie Pham

Pain is a universal experience but we are often not educated about how it works and the different types of pain there are. Not all pain is the same between individuals, and different types of pain have distinct characteristics, causes, and treatment approaches. We’ll explore some of the most common types of pain to help you better understand and with the guidance of an experienced pain coach, we can help with formulating a treatment approach.

Nociceptive Pain:

Nociceptive pain is the most common type of pain and occurs when specialised nerve fibers (nociceptors) detect potential or actual tissue damage. Causes often result from acute injuries, inflammation, surgical procedures or medical conditions that affect tissues, bones, joints, or organs.

Neuropathic Pain:

Neuropathic pain arises from damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. It is often described as shooting, burning, tingling, or electric shock-like sensations. It can occur in a specific area or radiate along nerve pathways. Causes include conditions that involve nerve compression or nerve injuries.

Acute Pain:

Acute pain is a temporary pain sensation that typically occurs after an injury, surgery, or illness. It serves as a protective mechanism, alerting us to potential harm or damage. Acute pain can result from trauma, fractures, burns, infections, or medical procedures.

Nociplastic Pain:

Nociplastic pain is characterised by abnormalities in the way the central nervous system processes pain signals. It often involves widespread pain, increased sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia) and pain from non-painful stimuli (allodynia). Nociplastic pain can be associated with conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as psychological factors like stress and anxiety. Acute, nociceptive or neuropathic pain can develop into nociplastic pain and is diagnosed by a pain clinician such as a pain specialist or pain physiotherapist.

Chronic Pain:

Chronic pain is persistent pain that lasts beyond the expected healing time or persists for at least three to six months. It can significantly impact daily functioning, quality of life, and mental well-being. Chronic pain can stem from nociceptive, neuropathic and nociplastic pain.

Our clinicians are trained in diagnosing complex pain presentations and identifying what factors are contributing to pain. Depending on our assessment we are able to formulate a plan to help manage your pain.

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