Pain Types Visceral

Visceral pain originates in the internal organs and supportive tissue. However, referred visceral pain may be felt in the skin, bones and muscles. The location of visceral pain and its cause will determine the severity of the pain and also the methods that can be used to manage the pain.

Visceral Pain Causes

 Visceral pain occurs when an internal organ experiences:

  • compression
  • infection
  • inflammation
  • pressure
  • stretching.

Trauma, such as a car accident or a blow to the body, can also result in visceral pain.

A tumor may cause visceral pain as it presses on surrounding organs. Another example of visceral pain is the discomfort a person might feel as the result of a stomach ulcer or an inflamed appendix.

Visceral Pain Symptoms

Visceral pain symptoms often depend on the affected organ’s structure. For instance, in a hollow organ such as the stomach, visceral pain is often experienced as a cramping pain that is not clearly localized.

In more solid organs, visceral pain may affect a clearly defined area. People who are experiencing visceral pain in a solid organ may describe the pain as a deep pain that is accompanied by pressure. They may also report feeling a stabbing pain.

Visceral Referred Pain

 Visceral referred pain describes visceral pain that is felt in areas of the body distant from the source of pain. Visceral referred pain can be felt in:

  • muscles
  • other internal organs
  • the skeletal system
  • the skin.

Pain felt in the skin and musculoskeletal system is defined as somatic pain. However, visceral pain receptors share the same pathways as somatic pain receptors. As a result, visceral referred pain can be experienced in locations usually restricted to somatic pain.

Visceral referred pain often occurs when an internal organ is damaged or in distress. The classic example of visceral referred pain is the pain felt in the left chest, arm or hand during a heart attack.

Diagnosing Visceral Pain

Visceral pain can indicate the presence of serious health conditions, so determining the underlying cause of visceral pain is essential.

Medical examiners evaluate visceral pain and the need for pain management based on both the physical cause of the pain and the patient’s description of the pain. Factors considered when evaluating the need for visceral pain management include:

  • factors that increase or decrease pain
  • how the pain affects daily life
  • other symptoms
  • pain location
  • the patient’s description of pain
  • the severity of the pain.

Visceral Pain Management

Pain awareness is very personal: What one person feels as moderate visceral pain is excruciating to someone else. Therefore, visceral pain management must be tailored to each individual’s pain tolerance.

The most effective method of visceral pain management is to treat or remove the underlying cause. In some cases, however, this is impossible, either due to the nature of the condition or the physical location of the problem.

While pain medication works well for somatic pain, there are relatively few painkillers that can effectively treat visceral pain. Powerful opiates provide some pain management options, but as opiates have addictive properties, this family of medication is generally prescribed only in extremely serious cases of visceral pain.

Non-medicinal visceral pain management techniques may include relaxation techniques, medication and biofeedback. With each of these methods, successful pain management is heavily dependant both on individual health and commitment to the pain management strategy.

 

Resources

 

Beth Israel Medical Center (n.d.). Definitions and Types of Pain. Retrieved September 6, 2007, from the Health and Healing NY Web site: www.healingchronicpain.org/content/introduction/definitions.asp.

Borgbjerg, F. (2007). Visceral Pain and its Management. Retrieved September 6, 2007, from the European Society of Anaethesiologists Web site: www.euroanesthesia.org/education/rc_vienna/14rc1.HTM.

Cervero, F. (n.d.). Visceral Pain. Retrieved September 6, 2007, from the Wellcome Trust Web site: www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/pain/microsite/science3.html.

Health Psychology Network (n.d.). Pain Management. Retrieved September 5, 2007, from the Health Psychology Network Web site: www.healthpsychology.net/Pain_Management.htm.

Oncology Channel (2007). Cancer Pain: Types of Pain. Retrieved September 5, 2007, from the Oncology Channel Web site: www.oncologychannel.com/pain/types.shtml.