Name Your Pain: Exploring The Four Types Of Pain

Authored by: VSI

Did you know that there are different types of pain? Moreover, did you know that the body processes these in different ways? Therefore, it is important to properly define which type of pain you are experiencing. Pinpointing the type of pain allows your physician to more effectively select the type of treatment, and get you on the road to managing and/or overcoming your pain faster. There are four types of pain that can be present individually or can be present at the same time which can cause a mixed pain pattern. With several types of pain, there are various unique treatment options to suit the intricacies of each type.


  1. Nociceptive Pain: Typically the result of tissue injury. Common types of nociceptive pain are arthritis pain, mechanical back pain, or post-surgical pain.
  2. Inflammatory Pain: An abnormal inflammation caused by an inappropriate response by the body’s immune system. Conditions in this category include gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
  3. Neuropathic Pain: Pain caused by nerve irritation. This includes conditions such as neuropathy, radicular pain, and trigeminal neuralgia.
  4. Functional Pain: Pain without obvious origin, but can cause pain. Examples of such conditions are fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.

Now that you are familiar with the four categories of pain, here are some helpful ways you can describe your pain to your medical team. This communication will assist them in their diagnosis and treatment of your condition. Since there is an array of treatment options unique to addressing specific types of pain, it is important to target the type of pain you are experiencing. Be sure to work together with your medical team using the criteria below.


  • Provocation and Palliation: What were you doing at the onset? What provokes it, what alleviates it?
  • Quality/Quantity: What does the pain feel like and how often? Is it sharp, dull, stabbing, crushing, throbbing, nauseating?
  • Region/Radiation: Where is the pain located? To be specific, point to the location of the pain or draw it on the diagram. Does it radiate anywhere? If so, where and to what side? Is it equal if both sides are involved? The more specific you can be the better.
  • Severity Scale: How much does it hurt on a scale from 1-10?
  • Timing: Does the severity or character of the pain change based on time of day, activity, weather, time of year, or position?

Acute pain, if not properly addressed, can become chronic pain through a process called sensitization. Sensitization is a result of repeated exposure to a stimulus resulting in an increased response to that stimulus. Chronic pain, or pain lasting more than twelve weeks, can be persistent and becomes more difficult to treat. Most pain can successfully be treated by multimodality or combined approach based on the type or types of pain involved. So whether your pain is acute or chronic, schedule a consultation with our team here at Virginia Spine Institute. We’ll put a name to your pain and get you back on the road to recovery!

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