Pain is a very misunderstood sensation for many people when it comes to the neurological system. Pain is good. You may be asking yourself, “How can pain be good?” Pain is the central nervous system’s (CNS) way of letting us know that something is not right in our bodies. Pain can be one of the first symptoms of many conditions within the human body that will let us know that it is time to seek professional, medical help. Granted, many of us consider pain to be “bad,” and it often is, but without it, many of us would never know that we are injured or sick and would miss seeking the medical care that we need due to painful conditions or injuries of the body.
A little known fact for many people is that there are many different types of pain that we have classified when it comes to neurological perception of pain. Humans have classified pain by region of the body involved, the bodily system that is affected, specific pattern and duration of occurrence, intensity and duration of pain since onset, and etiology. The three main classifications of pain are nociceptive, inflammatory, and pathological. However, there are actually many more sub types of pain that biologists and neuroscientists have classified. Some of the various types of pain are:
- Nociceptive pain – This pain is caused by stimulation of or damage to sensory nerve fibers. It is classified by the mode of noxious stimulation. The most common types of nociceptive pain are thermal, mechanical, and chemical. Thermal pain is due to extreme temperatures, either hot or cold. Mechanical pain is caused by crushing, tearing, or shearing. Chemical pain is due to certain chemicals like iodine being introduced to a cut or other chemicals that can be released during inflammatory processes in the body.
- Neuropathic pain – This type of pain is caused by damage to a part of the body or disease that affects a part of the nervous system. It is often described by the sensations of tingling, burning, stabbing, electrical, or a pins and needles sensation. Hitting your funny bone is one type of neuropathic pain. One other commonly known type of neuropathic pain is phantom pain or phantom limb pain, which is common in amputees or anyone who have suffered the loss of a limb. This type of pain has been formerly very difficult to treat, but one doctor and neuroscientist, V.S. Ramachandran, has come up with a method known as mirror box therapy which is proving to help many of these patients. It is a visual process that essentially fools the brain into thinking the phantom limb and the associated pain is shrinking using a mirrored box and a variety of lenses that appear to make the mirrored limb shrink.
- Psychogenic pain – This is also referred to as psychalgia or somatoform pain. This type of pain is due to mental, emotional, and/or behavioral factors and is often believed to be “imagined.” There are many people who suffer with psychogenic pain. More research is needed and is ongoing to uncover the psychological factors that may lead to this “make believe” pain that so many people perceive as very real and can be crippling to everyday life.
- Breakthrough pain – This kind of pain comes on very suddenly and is unable to be treated with traditional methods for pain relief. Many cancer patients experience breakthrough pain. It is often treated with some of the strongest pain medications like opiods.
- Incident pain – This type of pain is brought on by physical activity like movement in arthritic joints or over stretching a wound.