Ahmad Chehade, PharmD. Candidate
Have you ever pricked your finger or put your hand on a hot surface, only to react involuntarily? This is an example of our body’s response to nociceptive pain. To give a little insight of how pain travels from our skin to our brain, we can break this down into a four-step process:1 Tissue damage activates pain receptors (nociceptors) in the skin
- These pain receptors send the signal up the peripheral nerve to the spinal cord
- Within the spinal cord, chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) are released which activate other nerves to pass on the signal
- The thalamus relays the signal on the somatosensory cortex (sensation), frontal cortex (thinking) and limbic system (emotional response)
Types of Pain
Now that we took a look at how our body receives signals associated with pain, let’s take a closer look at the different types of pain.
#1. Nociceptive Pain
Nociceptive pain is a type of pain characterized by an injury to body tissues. This could be from a cut, burn, bone breakage, or anything that damages body tissues. For instance, the pain we experience instantaneously from a trigger would be nociceptive.2 This pain is usually aching, throbbing or sharp.2 Nociceptive pain can either be intermittent(acute) or long-lasting (chronic) and is typically treated with analgesics such as NSAIDs (Advil®, Motrin®, Naproxen®) and opioids.
#2. Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain may be caused by problems in the nerves, spinal cord or brain.1 Unlike nociceptive pain, it’s usually associated with the sensation of burning, tingling, shooting, or an electric-like sensation.1 People with neuropathic pain may feel pain from triggers that typically don’t cause pain such as light touch or cold.1
Other Influences on Pain
However, pain is not as simple as categorizing it into types based on associated symptoms and causes. It’s complex and may be influenced by various other factors. While an acute phase of pain usually subsides after a short period of time, there are many contributing factors that can influence how sensitive you are to pain and how you respond to it. These include:3
- Gender: Women report more frequent, severe, and longer lasting pain than men do
- Long-term health conditions: There are a handful of medical conditions which can contribute to pain modalities in our bodies such as fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Psychological factors: Pain is more prevalent in those with depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem
What Can Help
Appropriate pain management strategies are crucial in minimizing pain, especially in individuals with chronic pain. It’s important to remember that pain is a reaction that our body perceives to protect ourselves from further injury and to allow us to recognize that something is wrong. While it’s important to minimize activities that cause pain and injuries, it’s just as important to continue carrying out daily activities. Contrary to popular beliefs, limiting ourselves from all activities and becoming bedridden may only cause everything to go downhill from there.
Pain specialists urge all patients to take appropriate mental health measures when dealing with chronic pain in addition to their medications. This is because medications can only relieve pain by 25-30%.
As you can see, there is more to pain than just a simple physical injury. So, it’s really important that you take an approach that not only looks at minimizing symptoms and causes, but also other factors that may prevent it from improving.
Here at Orbis Health, we are committed to providing you with high quality, evidence-based health information. If you are dealing with pain and want more information feel free to reach out to us through Instagram, Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.