Nocioceptive Pain


Senior man grabs his low back and winces in pain as he stands up from a couch.
Vertebral compression fractures can make daily activities painful or difficult. ljsphotography

Nocioceptive Pain

Nocioceptive pain is the kind of pain you can understand. It's different than neuropathic pain, which is pain due to injury to nerves. The difference becomes significant when your doctor is determining which medication and/or treatment is appropriate for your condition.

How Nocioceptive Pain Develops in Your Body

Nocioceptive pain occurs in response to injury to one or more parts of your body.

This may include back pain, neck pain or pain in any other area. It is brought on when an event that affects your body (for example, getting a crick in your neck from a bad sleeping position, or burning your hand on a hot stove) stimulates your nerves into action. Once stimulated, the nerves conduct messages from the place of impact, up through your spinal cord, and into to your brain. As the messages reach the brain, they are interpreted, resulting in a sensation of pain.

Nocioceptive Pain Example

Unlike neuropathic pain, which often shows up in illogical ways, nocioceptive pain occurs in relation to actual injury to your body structures. For example, if you strain your low back muscles while gardening, inflammation will probably develop in that area. The inflammation is an actual change in your muscle tissue, one that can be identified by its signs (redness, swelling and more). The acute pain you feel is due to nearby nocioceptors that become stimulated into transmitting messages to the brain.

The brain's job is to interpret those messages as pain.

Potential Causes of Nocioceptive Pain

Potential causes of nocioceptive pain include injuries and trauma such as the three listed below.  (Note:  This is by no means an exhaustive list.)


Pathophysiology of Pain And Pain Assessment. Nocioceptive Pain Mechanisms. AMA Website. August 2007.

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