Understanding different types of pain
Neuropathic pain: Pain that develops as a result of damage to the peripheral nervous system (Neuropathy means nerve disease or damage). Peripheral nerves send sensory information from the body back to the brain and spinal cord, such as a message that the feet are cold. Peripheral nerves also carry signals from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles to generate movement. Damage to the peripheral nervous system interferes with these vital connections. Symptoms can range from numbness or tingling, to pricking sensations (paresthesia), or muscle weakness. Areas of the body may become abnormally sensitive leading to an intense or distorted experience of touch. Severe symptoms may include burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction.
Examples of Neuropathic pain include:
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Sciatic pain
- Pain from shingles infection
- Trigeminal nerve pain
Musculoskeletal pain: Pain that affects the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. It can be acute or chronic. Musculoskeletal pain can be focused in one area, or widespread. Musculoskeletal pain is often caused by imflammation (swelling) of joints or muscles as a result of injury, such as car accidents or falls. Musculoskeletal pain can also be caused by overuse. Pain from overuse affects 33% of adults. Lower back pain from overuse is the most common work-related diagnosis in Western society. Poor posture or prolonged immobilization can also cause musculoskeletal pain.
Examples of musculoskeletal pain include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Back/neck pain
- Chronic pelvic pain
Cancer Pain: Cancer itself and the side effects of cancer treatment can sometimes cause pain. Patients with cancer may experience acute pain, chronic pain, neuropathic pain, or musculoskeletal pain- or any combinations of those types of pain. Cancer pain can be complex and your oncologist and/or a pain management specialist will help you navigate pain control.