Distinguishing between neuropathic and nociceptive pain
When determining an effective treatment option, it is important to work with your doctor in ascertaining the correct pain diagnosis. Treatment options differ vastly between nociceptive and neuropathic pain.
The most common type of pain that people experience is nociceptive pain. The human body is full of receptors called nociceptors that respond to stimuli from damaged tissue. It tends to dissipate as the affected body part recovers. For example, nociceptive pain due to a broken arm will improve as the arm recovers. The most common areas for people to experience nociceptive pain is in the musculoskeletal system: joints, muscles, skin, tendons, bones. When you touch a hot object, you immediately withdraw it due to the nociceptors receiving stimuli. This type of pain tends to happen very quickly, compared to a gradual progression. Nociceptive pain is the body’s natural defense against harmful surfaces or actions.
On the other hand, there is neuropathic pain. This pain is the result of damage to the nervous system and is often chronic. Unlike nociceptive pain, neuropathic pain does not need to develop in response to any outside stimulus. Often due to a malfunctioning nervous system, neuropathic pain tends to progress with time if left untreated. Neuropathic pain is typically more difficult to treat and responds poorly to opioid medications. Common treatments implement ways to block the electrical conduction from the affected nerve to the brain.
- Sharp, shooting, burning, or stabbing pain
- Touch sensitivity
- Muscle weakness
- Increase in pain at night
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nerve Injury
- Spinal cord injury
At times it is common for people to suffer from a combination of both nociceptive and neuropathic pain. This makes it extremely important to thoroughly discuss your symptoms with your doctor to determine an effective therapy.