Pain: Physical and Emotional

 Classifications of Pain:


  • acute: sudden onset with a typical duration of less than 6 months, usually associated with injury


  • chronic: constant pain that persists more than 6 months, usually associate with a particular injury, cause or illness


  • cancer pain: often due to the compression of peripheral nerves or meninges. May also be due to cellular and tissue damage following surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or tumor growth.


Pain Description:


  • transient

  • burning

  • shooting

  • sharp

  • dull

  • aching


note: Pain is classified by mode of origin and transmission


Nociceptive pain: is due to the stimulation of nerve fibers that transmit signals

in a normal way from nerve endings to brain centers.


Somatic pain: pain originating from muscle, soft tissue or bone. It is usually

well localized and described as deep, aching, or boring. It may be worse with

movement. Some examples are bone metastases, osteoarthritis, and

muscle/tissue damage.


Visceral pain: pain originating from internal organs or viscera surrounding

them. It is usually less well localized and can be referred. Often described as

deep aching, cramping, or squeezing. Some examples are bowel obstruction,

brain tumour, and appendicitis.


Neuropathic pain: is the abnormal sustained stimulation of the nerve fibers that

transmit signals from the nerve ending to brain center and/or from a dysfunction

in the central nervous system.


  • dysesthetic pain: described as burning, electrical sensations or pins and needles and/or lancinating pain, described as stabbing, shooting, or hot poker


examples of neuropathic pain: pain

  • post-herpetic neuralgia

  • spinal cord compression

  • diabetic neuropathy

  • plexopathies

  • phantom limb

  • central pain from a stroke


Emotional pain: the essence of this pain is the feeling of brokenness or shattered self. When perceived this pain is often avoided or hidden beneath self protective strategies. Unlike physical pain, that can be alleviated with pain medications, emotional pain must be first approached (acknowledged, validated) by the individual. Secondly, it must be reprocessed and assimilated into the individuals cognitive structures and view of self. This process allows for emotional awareness, a means to address the emotional arousal and finally regulation of the emotional pain itself.


Bolger, Elizabeth and Greenberg, Leslie G. 2001. An Emotion-Focused Approach to the Overregulation of Emotion and Emotional Pain. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 57 (2) 197-211.


Weber, Janet, R. 2008. Nurses Handbook of Health Assessment. 6thed. Missouri: Wolters Kluwer.


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