Pain Causes Organic Non Organic

Pain relief strategies depend in large part on the type of pain involved. Typically, medical experts categorize pain according to whether it has a non-organic or an organic source.

Non-organic pain has no identifiable physical cause, meaning that it usually stems from psychological factors. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for instance, causes intense abdominal pain without an identifiable physical cause.

Alternately, organic pain refers to any pain resulting from a disorder, abnormality or chemical imbalance in an organ system, namely the human body. Consequently, organic pain is an extremely broad term, covering pain causes that range in diversity from heartburn to multiple sclerosis. Unlike non-organic pain, organic pain has a traceable and identifiable cause in a specific organic system.

Organic Pain vs. Non-Organic Pain

Although this distinction may seem clear, in some cases, the line between organic pain and non-organic pain can be blurry. Take the mental conditions of anxiety disorder and depression, for example. The stress produced by both conditions can result in non-organic pain, often taking the form of headaches and gastrointestinal pain.

However, keep in mind that each of these conditions can stem from organic causes. While chronic anxiety disorder can arise from an unidentified allergy (i.e. as an allergy closes the lung’s airways, a person suffers from the intense symptoms of anxiety disorder), depression may, at times, result from an underlying organic chemical imbalance.

As a result, for disorders like these that have ambiguous causes, doctors have to perform a series of diagnostic tests to determine whether or not organic causes are triggering them. In general, the gastrointestinal system seems particularly vulnerable to non-organic pain. Any diagnosis of gastrointestinal non-organic pain must first rule out organic pain causes.

Examples of Organic Pain

While the gastrointestinal system is vulnerable to non-organic pain, organic pain also tends to affect it, as well as the urinary system. Causes of organic pain in these systems range in severity from minor inconveniences to chronic disorders that cause incapacitating pain. Examples of gastrointestinal and urinary system organic pain include:

  • constipation

  • Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory disorder related to the digestive tract)

  • gastrointestinal infections

  • heartburn

  • sexually transmitted diseases

  • ulcerative colitis (a condition that causes ulcers to arise in the colon and rectum)

  • ulcers

  • urinary tract infection.

Remember, though, that organic pain is not confined to the gastrointestinal and urinary tract systems. Nearly any system or bodily organ can be affected by organic pain, including (but not limited to) the:

  • circulatory system
  • musculoskeletal system
  • neurological systems
  • skin.

Pain Relief for Organic Pain

 Because some physical factor is the primary cause for organic pain, medication can often provide pain relief. Organic pain relief medications include:

  • antispasmodics (medications that calm cramps, spasms and convulsions)

  • aspirin

  • muscle relaxants

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS (medications that reduce redness, swelling and general inflammations)

  • opiates (highly addictive medications that dull the nervous system to relieve pain)

  • steroid-based anti-inflammatory drugs.

While pain medication can be highly effective for acute cases of organic pain, long-term organic pain relief with medication can lead to unwanted side effects.

Addiction and tolerance to pain relief medication are two of the most common disadvantages to using it over longer periods of time. Not only does long-term use create a physical need for the medication, but it also doesn’t address or treat the source of the pain.

Treatment Options for Organic Pain

Chronic organic pain is often controlled by long-term pain management techniques, rather than through medication alone. Some natural ways patients can minimize their organic pain revolve around:

  • Incorporating biofeedback strategies: Biofeedback teaches people to consciously control autonomic body functions (i.e. functions that are usually controlled unconsciously). By using biofeedback strategies, a patient can learn to control his muscle tension, lower his blood pressure and regulate other bodily functions for natural pain relief.

  • Learning relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques often used for organic pain relief include meditation, controlled breathing and progressive relaxation.

  • Managing stress: Because stress often aggravates organic pain, learning to minimize and manage stress can provide some pain relief. Effective ways to reduce stress include practicing time management skills, going to therapy and incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily life.

Lifestyle and Organic Pain Relief

 Along with taking medication and practicing pain management techniques, patients can also make a series of lifestyle changes to relieve their organic pain. Lifestyle changes may include changes to diet, exercise and sleep patterns, all of which can improve your overall health and minimize your organic pain.

Keep in mind that not all organic pain responds to lifestyle changes. However, making healthy choices and learning to control stress can often provide most patients with at least some pain relief.




Chacko, M. (2006). Patient Information: Chronic Abdominal Pain in Children and Adolescents. Retrieved August 30, 2007, from the UptoDate Patient Information Web site: