Pain Types Unidentifiable

Anyone who has endured long-term discomfort without a known cause understands the torment of unidentifiable pain. Chronic pain with no underlying medical or mental condition is difficult to diagnose and treat.

While some believe unidentifiable pain results from a misfiring of the brain’s sensory receptors, those who suffer from it know it is very real. Treating the symptoms of unidentified pain often requires a drawn-out diagnostic process, as well as long-term pain management.

The Mystery of Unidentifiable Pain

Just as medical experts are unsure of the number of nerve networks and receptors that operate throughout the body, so too are they baffled by an objective test for determining the levels of pain that people feel. Along with having differing reactions to various stimuli, people have different pain thresholds, making it difficult to standardize the process of diagnosing and treating unidentifiable pain.

Causes of Unidentifiable Pain

Experts speculate that the cause of unidentified pain stems from some combination of crossed nerves signals and the brain’s misinterpretation of them. Like referred pain, the exact causes of unidentifiable pain remain a mystery.

As a result, it’s important to work closely with your doctor to investigate the source of the pain and find the proper treatments. To some extent, those who suffer from unidentifiable pain fall into an often-stigmatized category. With little information available to target a cause, patients sometimes believe the pain is a figment of their imaginations.

Another issue surrounding unidentifiable pain is that some medical professionals are skeptical as to whether the symptoms are fabricated or simply exaggerated, which can sometimes make patients reluctant to fully confide in their doctors. Ultimately, this can lead to misdiagnosis and the wrong treatments.

As you work with your doctor to identify the cause of your pain, remember that determining the cause takes time. While some patients who are frustrated when they aren’t quickly diagnosed may hop from doctor to doctor in search of a cure, others may prematurely switch physicians if they aren’t receiving the prescription medication they think they need. Keep in mind that the process of diagnosing referred pain can take weeks or even months. As a result, staying with a doctor who knows you and whom you trust is essential to figuring out what is causing your unidentifiable pain.

Diagnosing Unidentifiable Pain

During an initial consultation, be prepared to answer the following questions from your doctor:

  • Do you take any medications or practice any therapies to relieve the pain?
  • Does the pain subside? When? How often?
  • Have you ever injured the area or surrounding areas experiencing pain?
  • How long have you experienced this pain?
  • How often do you experience the pain?
  • How severe is your pain based on a scale of 0-10 (none to severe)?
  • Is the pain always the same? If not, be prepared to describe the nuances of your pain.
  • What activities alleviate the pain?
  • What activities enhance the pain?
  • Where do you feel the pain? Is it localized (limited to one area) or widespread?

In most cases of unidentifiable pain, your doctor won’t be able to immediately identify a physical source of the pain. At this point, he may recommend that you get a psychiatric evaluation. Don’t take this suggestion personally. While the idea of getting a psychiatric evaluation is unnerving for some, it’s a necessary step in resolving your pain issues.

For example, if you experience anxiety disorder, panic attacks or other mental conditions, these psychological disorders can be the source of the pain. In these cases, the pain is considered to be psychogenic pain, rather than unidentifiable pain.

Pain Clinics

You can also elect to consult the services of a pain clinic. Many of these are “multidisciplinary,” meaning professionals from varying specialties work within a single office. Typically, these experts understanding how to approach many different types of pain symptoms, and therefore can present you with several options for treating and managing your pain. Some of the services pain clinics provide include:

  • Alternative therapies, including stress reduction training, can complement the range of physical and medical treatments.
  • Counseling helps alleviate emotional distress while striving to reduce or eliminate pain.
  • Injections, usually corticosteroid shots, may relieve inflammation in the affected area.
  • Medication, both over-the-counter and prescribed, can relieve pain while you and doctors work to identify the source of pain. While doctors may prescribe antidepressants to relieve, they may also suggest that you get a pump surgically implanted to release medications into the system.
  • Nerve stimulation, the process of electrically stimulating certain parts of the body, can help block pain sensations.
  • Occupational therapy teaches patients techniques and methods for alleviating or minimizing pain on the job. Techniques include exercises, stretches and incorporating periods of rest during your day.

In some cases, the persistence and elusiveness of unidentifiable pain can cause frustration, anxiety and depression in patients. These, in turn, can exacerbate the pain itself. As the discomfort progresses, so too do the psychological conditions, which often lead to greater disability and disruption of lifestyle.

If you start suffering from associated mental conditions, consult your doctor. Treating these will help you endure the diagnostic process for unidentifiable pain so that you can figure out the source and effectively treat your pain.

Managing Unidentifiable Pain

Here are some common ways to manage the symptoms of unidentifiable pain:

  • acupuncture and/or acupressure
  • biofeedback (a method of learning how to mentally control and subdue symptoms of a condition)
  • group support
  • hypnosis
  • massage
  • medication
  • meditation
  • physical exercise
  • physical therapy
  • private counseling.

Talk with your doctor about which of the above treatment options is right for you. Because emotional distress often occurs with unresolved pain, practicing a combination of the above therapies can also help prevent you from suffering from additional stress, anxiety or depressed states.

Keep in mind that any pain left untreated can have detrimental effects to both your mental and physical health. When it lasts over the course of months with no resolution, pain may become chronic and life altering. Individuals who experience unidentifiable pain know how it affects every action, including:

  • emotional states
  • physical activity
  • pleasure
  • sleep
  • social interaction
  • work.

As a result, practicing both physical and emotional pain management techniques can reduce many types of unidentifiable pain. Also, it’s important to understand that pain is not a way of life; it just takes a little time to find the right solution. Taking an aggressive stance from the patient side brings more attention to this affliction. Take control of your own care and think of yourself as part of the medical team.

Resources (2007). Dealing with Pain. Retrieved August 28, 2007, from the AARP Web site: (2007). Chronic pain: When no physical cause can be found. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the MFMER Web site: (2007). Looking Beyond the Pain: The Role of Psychological Assessment in Medical Treatment. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the National Pain Foundation Web site: