Know Your Pain: The Different Types of Persistent Pain

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to or malfunction of the nerves themselves. The peripheral nervous system includes all the nerves that lead to and from the spinal cord. The nerves transmit pain signals to the brain. If the nerves are injured, neuropathic pain may develop – pain caused by injury to the nerves themselves. Persistent neuropathic pain can be 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 and is usually described as sharp, aching, or throbbing pain. It is 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. In persistent pain, the nociceptors may still be sending pain messages long after the original injury has healed.

Persistent pain is generally associated with one of the following areas:

Persistent back or leg pain

Persistent back or leg pain can be the result of spinal diseases such as arachnoiditis, degenerative disc disease, epidural fibrosis, failed back surgery syndrome, lumbar disc herniation, osteoporosis and spinal stenosis. Back pain is normally in the low back, but it can extend down into the legs or even the feet. Sometimes the areas affected by pain can be sore to the touch and can increase with movement. This type of pain can be felt as a sharp pain, a burning sensation, or a dull muscle ache – and can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely disabling.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

CRPS usually affects an arm or a leg after surgery, injury such as a broken bone, the result of nerve damage, a stroke or a heart attack. CRPS is uncommon and its cause isn’t clearly understood. Symptoms may change over time and vary from person to person, but usually includes pain, swelling and redness at first.

There are two types of CRPS. Type 1, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD), occurs after an illness or injury that didn’t directly damage the nerves in your affected limb. About 90% of people with complex regional pain syndrome have type 1. Type 2, once referred to as causalgia, has similar symptoms to type 1. But, type 2 complex regional pain syndrome follows a distinct nerve injury.

Painful neuropathies

This term covers a variety of neurological disorders resulting from damage to the nerves. The common symptoms include pain, burning, weakness and numbness. These most often appear in the hands or feet. Painful neuropathies may originally be caused by nutritional imbalances, alcoholism, toxins, infections, or autoimmunity, or may be the result of illnesses such as kidney failure or cancer. Treatment will usually focus on the underlying disease or condition if it is known.

Persistent pain isn’t a simple fix, if it was it wouldn’t be persistent. Treating persistent pain takes a team and takes patience. There are many types of treatments out there to help treat many types of persistent pain. The question normally is, what is the right type of treatment for you?

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