What is Nociceptive Pain?

There are Two Types of Nociceptive Pain: Somatic and Visceral Pain

Measuring Pain. Credit: BSIP / Contributor / Getty Images

Nociceptive pain is the term for pain that is detected by specialized sensory nerves called nociceptors. These nerves are located throughout the soft tissues, such as muscles and skin, as well as the internal organs.

What is Nociceptive Pain?

When pain is detected by the nerves in the skin, muscles and organs, it is called nociceptive pain.

There are two types of nociceptive pain: somatic pain and visceral pain.

Somatic pain comes from the joints, bones, muscles and other soft tissues, while visceral pain comes from the internal organs.

Do Somatic Pain and Visceral Pain Feel Different?

Somatic pain and visceral pain are actually two very different types of pain. Somatic pain comes from the skin and deep tissues, while visceral pain comes from the internal organs.

Both somatic pain and visceral pain are detected the same way. Nociceptors, or pain-detecting nerves, send an impulse from the painful site up through the spinal cord and to the brain for interpretation and reaction. This is called nociceptive pain, and it differs from neuropathic pain, which is caused by nerve damage.

Though they are detected in similar ways, somatic pain and visceral pain do not feel the same.

What are Nociceptors?

Nociceptors are how we feel pain. Nociceptors are nerves that send pain signals to the brain and spinal cord.

They have specialized receptors, or nerve endings that are triggered to fire by chemical changes in the body. Nociceptors detect temperature, pressure and stretching in and around their surrounding tissues. They are located throughout the body in the skin, internal organs, joints, muscles and tendons.

Nociceptors fire when damage is detected, sending pain signals to the spinal cord and the brain. Once the damage has been healed, nociceptors should stop firing. Sometimes even after the initial damage has healed, nociceptors may continue to fire, which can lead to chronic pain.

Nociceptive pain is pain detected in either the body's soft tissues (such as muscles and skin) or organs by specialized sensory nerves, known as nociceptors.

Nociceptors detect painful stimuli, sending information to the spinal cord and brain for interpretation and response.

Examples of Nociceptive Pain:

What is Somatic Pain?

Somatic Pain is a type of nociceptive pain. Somatic pain is also referred to as skin pain, tissue pain or muscle pain. Unlike visceral pain (another type of nociceptive pain), the nerves that detect somatic pain are located in the skin and deep tissues. These specialized nerves, called nociceptors, pick up sensations related to temperature, vibration and swelling in the skin, joints and muscles.

What is Visceral Pain?

Visceral pain is also a type of nociceptive pain. Visceral pain refers to pain detected by nociceptors in the body's internal organs.

Like somatic pain, visceral pain detected by sensory nerves is sent to the spinal cord and brain for interpretation.

Sensory nerves in the internal organs are not as widespread as they are in the body's muscles and skin. This can make visceral pain feel dull and hard to localize.

Unlike somatic pain, visceral pain may be felt further away from its actual origin.

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