Pain, like food or music, is perceived differently by everyone. This poses an especially unique challenge for health care providers when it comes to assessing their patients and determining the most appropriate course of care. The more you know about yourself, and your pain, the better able you will be to both help determine the source of any pain you are experiencing and better understand what your body may be trying to tell you. This article will provide some basic, but comprehensive, guidelines when it comes to understanding pain in general with the hope that a better understanding, you will be able to worry less and help more, when working with your doctor to alleviate pain.
Pain can be classified into three main groups and demonstrate the following characteristics:
- Peripheral nociceptive
- This type of pain is primarily the result of tissue damage and associated inflammation
- It responds very well to opioid medications and anti-inflammatories in addition to responding well to manual and therapeutic correctives/treatment
- Classic examples of this type of pain are muscle strains/sprains, osteoarthritis and broken bones or post surgical pain
- Peripheral neuropathic
- This type of pain is primarily the result of damage to or dysfunction of peripheral nerve tissue
- It responds to both peripherally and centrally acting pharmacological therapies and medications
- Classic examples of this type of pain is diabetic neuropathic pain, pinched nerves causing numbness and tingling, sciatica and other radicular pains
- Central neuropathic
- This type of pain is unique in that its origin is usually the result of a disturbance in pain processing. Pain is felt or experienced disproportionately to what most people would consider normal because this type of pain may have its roots in, or at least a connection to, cognitive or emotional impairments.
- It responds most predictably to neuroactive compounds which alter levels of neurotransmitters involved in pain transmission
- Classic examples of this type of pain are fibromyalgia, reflexive sympathetic dystrophy and irritable bowel syndrome
This is not a comprehensive list by any means, and the topic of pain is a very complicated one for many reasons. But, if you do have pain, use these general classifications to help decipher the mystery that pain and injury can be. Use them to help better communicate with your doctor, so that they can best help you.