Types of Chronic Pain

Written by Steven Richeimer, MD

Chronic pain falls into a couple of broad categories. These categories help doctors treat the pain because every type must be approached and treated differently. The generally accepted forms of chronic pain are:

Neuropathic Pain

The peripheral nerve system includes all the nerves that lead to and from the spinal cord. These nerves transmit pain signals to the brain. If they're injured, neuropathic pain may develop—pain caused by injury to the nerves themselves. You may also hear the term peripheral neuropathy, which is another way to say neuropathic pain since it is damage to the peripheral nerve system.

Damage to the central nervous system can also trigger neuropathic pain.

Chronic neuropathic pain can be especially challenging to treat because it can be difficult to pinpoint where and how the nerves are damaged.

Nociceptive Pain

Nociceptive pain is caused by an injury or disease to a part of the body. It's called nociceptive pain because the injury or disease stimulates the nociceptors, which are the receptors on the nerves responsible for transmitting pain messages from the affected area. The various types of chronic nociceptive pain are:

Figuring out what type of chronic pain you have may be a difficult process, especially since many types of chronic pain may not come from any noticeable injury or disease. Also, since pain is such a subjective experience, you must be thorough in describing your pain to the doctor. Working together, you and the doctor can figure out the best way to deal with your chronic pain.

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Anatomy of Chronic Pain