Pain: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Ever wondered why your physio insists on asking all those questions about your pain? Does it feel deep? Is it sharp or dull?  Pain is pain isn’t it! Not quite. Although we think of pain as a single sensation, recent research has shown there are several distinct types of pain and with this post I want to introduce these different types.

Nociceptive Pain: This is the most basic form of pain, the acute sensation we get in response to harmful stimuli strong enough that it demands immediate attention. The simplest example of this is when you touch a hot stove your nociceptive ‘warning system’ makes you pull your hand away quickly.

Inflammatory Pain: Inflammatory pain is used to promote the healing of damaged tissues during which there is an increased sensitivity to things that would not normally cause pain. An example of this is when you roll your ankle, it swells up and moving your foot back and forth is now painful. It is not necessarily the damaged structure causing this pain but the inflammation your body has produced to protect the area.

Neuropathic Pain: Neuropathic pain can occur in response to damage to the nervous system and is usually more persistent or recurrent.  It may be due to damage in the peripheral nervous system (like a disc bulge in your back irritating a nerve and causing leg symptoms) or to the central nervous system such as after a stroke affecting the brain.

Functional Pain: Functional Pain is possibly the most complex of all pain types. It is when a person is experiencing pain with no injury or neurological deficit that can be detected. It is thought that this may be due to abnormal functioning of the nervous system where the ‘warning system’ is constantly on or sending false alarms.

No matter what type of pain you are feeling we know you’d rather be without it so getting as much information about your pain in the initial physio assessment helps us to work out what type of pain you have so we can plan the best way of removing it!

 

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