Medical terminology is very specific, and not without good reason. When you are conversing with your doctor and trying to explain something, the doctor will probably do their best to understand what you mean in addition to what you say.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, and any confusion in doctor and patient conversations can literally become deadly. For the average person, a headache may well be just any pain in the head or face, but in reality, accurately describing the pain is necessary to determine what kind of headache you are suffering from, and whether or not there is an underlying physical cause that needs to be inspected.
Likewise, the terms mucus, phlegm, and saliva, may all be generally considered by the layman to be spittle or spit. One may indicate a problem with the lungs, where another may indicate problems with the sinuses, throat, or nose. Not properly describing the problem to a doctor, can result in a misdiagnosis, potentially leading to deadly consequences.
Different types of headaches all make your head hurt, but what kind of headache is it? What kind of headache it is depends on the specific underlying cause.
Headaches can be very painful, but what kind of pain is causing the headache? Is the difference really going to matter?
Ultimately, this depends on what the underlying cause is, as some headaches may be from an unnoticed chemical or other irritant you inadvertently inhaled, maybe from paint used in the home or office, while other headaches may be indicative of nerve damage or even an aneurysm.
Some headaches are merely a result of mental and emotional stress and lack a physical cause for the pain.
When something hurts, it is an indication that something is wrong, and probably in need of treatment. When the nail enters your hand, the pain lets you know something is there, and it should be removed.
Pain may also serve as a warning, letting us know that something is not conducive to our health. As your hand nears the burner, you feel the pain or discomfort from the heat before you actually burn yourself.
In other cases, pain may continue unabated for years, sometimes with no known medical cause to explain why something hurts the way it does.
Granted, not every conversation with your doctor is going to be a matter of life and death, but what if it was? Would you be able to adequately and accurately describe exactly what ails you? This process is certainly going to be easier with a family doctor, especially if you have had the same doctor for years.
But what about those people moving to Florida to retire and seeking out new medical doctors for primary care? Their primary caregivers will not necessarily be moving with them, and some terms may be even more different still.
In this article we will look at the different types of pain, more specifically, nociceptive, neuropathic pain, visceral pain, somatic pain, chronic, acute, mental, and even psychosomatic pain. Both visceral and somatic pain are technically under the larger category of nociceptive pain, but still merit being looked at in their own sections.
Hopefully, before everything is said and done, you will be able to communicate more clearly with your doctors, and get the professional quality healthcare that you need and want.
What is Nociceptive Pain?
What is nociceptive pain? You may never have heard the term before, but nociceptive pain is the most common type of pain to humans. Nociceptive pain is an automated response by the body to influences outside of the body. It may be the gagging reflex brought about by an unpleasant or toxic odor, it may be the pain emanating forth from the digit inadvertently smashed when you missed hitting the nail on the head.
Nociceptive pain is the reaction of the body to extreme heat or cold, more profoundly affecting the individual based on the extremity of the outside influence or stimulus. In a broader sense, nociceptive pain is what will be experienced either as a warning such as the heat from an open fire, resulting in an “instinctive” reaction drawing the hand away, or in the form of pain from physical damage such as being hit, having bones broken, or being cut.
What is Neuropathic Pain?
Neuropathic pain is a type of “chronic pain” related to the nerves and the nervous system, that is generally, though not always long lasting. The primary causes for neuropathic pain are damaged nerves or medical problems in the nervous system.
The sensations accompanying neuropathic pain will generally be described as a “shooting pain” or a “burning sensation” as opposed to throbbing pains or dull pains. Neuropathic pain may be chronic but this is not always the case. Someone who has been on the verge of frostbite may continue to feel a burning sensation in their hands, but it may go away once the effects of the extreme cold have worn off and the nerves in the hands return to normal.
What is Visceral Pain?
Visceral pain is a type of nociceptive pain generally associated with the internal organs and other visceral structures such as the rectum. The visceral structures within the human body are subject to distension, inflammation and ischemia, making this more of a “dull” type pain as opposed to pain sensed through the nerves and nerve-endings, though it may still cause a great deal of discomfort.
Visceral pain is generally the result of distension resulting in cramps, such as pain from irritable bowel syndrome or a bladder or kidney infection. Visceral pain may also occur when there has been a severe trauma resulting in damage to the internal organs. Visceral pain may also be difficult to centralize, especially if one is not familiar with their own body, and suffers damage to an organ not normally prone to injury.
Some types of visceral pain may be treated with little more than a hot water bottle or an ice pack, while others may require extensive medical treatment. Some symptoms may be alleviated through over the counter or prescription medications. However, it is important to remember to listen to the advice of a certified medical professional.
What is Somatic Pain?
Somatic pain is a type of nociceptive pain and occurs as a reaction to the injury, traumatizing or other damage to the nociceptors nerves in the skin or tissues. Somatic pain may be labeled as either superficial or deep.
Superficial somatic pain is most common and is the result of having the skin pierced, burned, or get scrapes or other “superficial” injuries to the skin or exposed epidermal layers. Deep somatic pain is generally relegated to the internal muscles, tendons, joints and bones. Deep somatic pain is generally described as being “dull” or “aching” and in some cases, as throbbing pain.
Female Somatic Pain is generally associated with concerns best addressed by an Obstetrician and/or a Gynecologist, though it remains a separate and unique type of pain in certain medical classifications. It is limited in scope however, being restricted to discomfort experienced only by biologically female patients.
What is Psychosomatic Pain?
Many people are familiar with the hypochondriac who always believes themselves to be sick, though they rarely ever are. While it may be challenging to believe, the hypochondriac may suffer from very real and very physical pain brought about by their delusions. It should also be noted that psychosomatic pain is a medical term for physical pain that exists but has no medical explanation.
Technically at least, a heavy sleeper could theoretically injure themselves in their sleep, being unaware that anything undue had happened as they dreamed the night away. However, when they went to the doctor, the pain may be classified as being psychosomatic, even though there is very real physical evidence of pain that may be discovered after a thorough medical examination.
Among the most common types of very real, psychosomatic pains are muscle pains, nausea, and those terrible migraines that seem to persist even without cause. Psychosomatic pain disorder on the other hand, is either pain or other debilitating conditions that result in a physical impairment, though the root causes are generally believed to be psychological in nature.
In cases where there is very real, physical pain, the general practitioner or family doctor may refer to the patient to a medical specialist with a more specific skill set, who might be more capable of determining the exact cause. In such cases, the cause of the pain may be listed as being psychosomatic pending further examinations.
What is Mental Pain?
Mental pain is pain that is caused by an overwhelming emotional response, but it may also result in a very real and physical manifestation of pain as well. Both the root causes and physical materialization of the pain will vary, though it is generally considered to be a physical manifestation of an emotional response to any unwanted or unpleasant stimuli.
In cases of mental pain, medication may or may not be prescribed, depending on the severity of the pain and based upon the recommendations of a mental health professional, properly certified and trained to deal with psychological or psychiatric issues. Psychologists do not offer prescription medication like psychiatrists can, but medication may vary depending on the cause and severity of the mental pain being endured by the patient.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic Pain or Persistent Pain are pains that last for a period exceeding 12 weeks in time, this despite ongoing medication and other treatments being applied during this time. Chronic pain may or may not be associated with muscle tears and other severe injuries of the muscle tissues or organs, and may be nociceptive or neuropathic in nature.
Common causes for chronic pain are back injuries, vehicle accidents, falls, or other blunt force trauma to the human body. Some types of chronic pain may also be psychosomatic insofar as they do not have a known cause. The most common examples of this type of chronic pain may very well be the headaches once again.
What is Acute Pain?
Acute pain is any pain that lasts for less than 30 days. This may include that nagging pain in your finger as your paper cut heals, the unbearable pain of an infected tooth, or other root cause that will continue to be painful, and likely to itch as well until it is more fully healed.
Acute pain may also be the result of surgery, accidents or other trauma to the body, that will be healed in a relatively short time, even if the discomfort is overwhelming. Pain medication may or may not be administered to someone suffering from acute pain, depending on the needs of the individual patient and what problems are causing the physical experience of pain.
Let AHCMD in Boca Raton Alleviate All Your Pains
Advanced Health Care MD in Boca Raton works with a large group of certified medical professionals always on staff and ready to treat both the root cause of your pain, and at the same time to alleviate the physical manifestation of your pain.