Three Major Categories of Pain

Categorization of Pain

Patient sitting on hospital bed waiting
Pain Classification. Portra Images / Getty Images

Pain has recently been a very serious condition affecting a large population of Americans. Pain has the ability to completely conquer your life. In order to manage it, you need to seek change in many areas of your life. However, in order to successfully manage your pain, the first step is fully understanding your condition. Pain is subcategorized into three separate forms.

The first form of pain is acute pain.

This pain is short-lived and typically lasts for about 3 to 6 months. This pain is also the aftermath of tissue damage. Acute pain is the pain that immediately follows an injury, both minor and major, but improves within a matter of weeks or months. When confronted with a burn, your pain will be intense and fast-occurring. This ?pain however changes into an aching pain in a matter of seconds. This pain is an example of acute pain. Labor pain is also a perfect example of acute pain since it occurs specifically with childbirth.

With time, acute pain can develop into chronic pain. The primary influences of this development include an active pain signal to your nervous system, a person’s emotional state, and a decrease in physical activity. These problems can only worsen or sustain your pain, making it more difficult for you to manage your pain.

Chronic pain, in comparison to acute pain, is pain that lasts longer than six months.

Often times, chronic pain may be a result of an underlying injury. However, chronic pain can also be present without an identifiable underlying condition.

Chronic pain that exists with a cause will typically be treated by treating the diagnosed underlying condition. These conditions include issues such as degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis.


Chronic pain with a lack of identifiable cause is known to be benign chronic pain. This pain occurs past any type of healing. This type of pain regards an issue in the nervous system. The nervous system has been disrupted and misfires signals of pain, past the point of tissue healing, now changing pain as the primary condition as opposed to an injury. An example of this type of chronic pain is pain that exists post-surgery.

Chronic pain is influenced by the same factors as acute pain. These include lack of physical activity, ongoing pain signals, and one’s emotional state. However, chronic pain is much more challenging to overcome than acute pain.

Neuropathic pain exists in its own category. Neuropathic pain is also commonly called nerve pain. This type of pain exists post-injury when all tissue damage is non-existent. This pain is also typically seen to be unrelated to your past injury and condition. Though some may categorize neuropathic pain under chronic pain, it does feel the same as chronic pain.

Neuropathic pain, in comparison to musculoskeletal pain which is associated with chronic pain, is more of a severe burning, tingling, and stabbing pain. This type of pain is also known to travel, primarily down the nervous system. Thus you would feel the pain travelling down your spine to your hands or feet, key portions of your nerve path.

With neuropathic pain, your treatment will vary greatly from acute and chronic pain. Opioid medication, which is typically effective on acute and chronic, will be ineffective in this case. Treatment for neuropathic pain will require alternative medication that targets your nerves specifically. An example of this is nerve block injections. These injections numb your respective problem nerve in order to ease your pain.

However, what is important to remember with pain is that everyone’s body is different. Treatments will vary from person to person since one’s pain levels and functionality is all dependent on their lifestyle.

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