Pain Types

Everyone experiences some type of pain at one point or another in life. Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is injured or wrong, and can help us from further injuring ourselves. Pain can sometimes be prevented, but in other cases it is necessary and lets people know when to seek medical assistance.

Pain comes in many different types and forms, each with different causes, severity, pain intensity and treatment options. Some types of pain, like chronic intractable pain, are very harmful if left untreated. See a doctor if you experience any type of chronic pain or severe pain. Pain left untreated, even short-term pain, can lead to long-term, chronic conditions in some sufferers.

In this section, we’ll cover all aspects of a number of different types of pain, including neuropathic pain, nociceptive pain, visceral pain, somatic pain, psychogenic pain, referred pain and unidentifiable pain. We’ll cover the treatment options, causes, prevention methods and more for each type of pain.

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is a chronic pain that is usually caused by a tissue injury. Nerve misfiring is common with neuropathic pain, and sufferers feel a shooting pain, a tingling or numbness in the affected area.

One of the most well-known types of neuropathic pain is phantom limb syndrome, in which sufferers feel pain in a limb that has been amputated.

Neuropathic pain can be caused by:

  • alcoholism
  • amputation
  • back or hip problems
  • chemotherapy
  • diabetes
  • HIV or AIDS
  • multiple sclerosis
  • shingles
  • spine surgery.

However, in some cases there is no apparent cause of neuropathic pain.

Visceral Pain

 Visceral pain is pain from the internal organs. Common types of visceral pain are pain from indigestion and constipation. Other types of visceral pain may be more difficult for people to pinpoint.

Chronic pancreatitis, appendicitis and other more serious conditions can also cause visceral pain.

Referred Pain

 Referred pain is a type of pain that is felt away from the site of the actual injury or cause of the pain. Referred pain often results from nerve damage or a blocked receptor.

“Ice cream headaches” and “brain freezes” are common types of referred pain.

Somatic Pain

Somatic pain is pain from the outer body, the skin or the muscles. These pains are common and are thus easier for people to pinpoint and explain to a doctor.

Somatic pain is usually not long-lasting and will resolve itself within a few days. Anti-inflammatory medications and acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®) are commonly used as treatment, but in more serious cases, prescription medications like opiods may be used to treat somatic pain.

Unidentified Pain

Just as the name suggests, unidentified pain refers to pain without a known cause. Many people experience pain for which doctors cannot find an explanation or cause. In some cases, people learn to live with the pain and avoid activities that trigger pain.

In other cases, doctors may recommend over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain. In severe cases, doctors may also prescribe pain relievers for patients with unidentified pain.




eMedicine Health (2007). Types of Chronic Pain. Retrieved September 14, 2007, from the eMedicine Health Web site:

MedicineNet (2007). Pain Management: Neuropathic Pain. Retrieved September 14, 2007, from the MedicineNet Web site: