How to Identify Your True Pain Source

When you are in pain, it can have a way of taking over your life, a fact known by one out of every five American adults. Not knowing what is causing the pain will make the pain feel even worse. Pain can debilitate you and impact your mental and intellectual health on a daily basis. When dealing with pain, you’ll want to learn how to identify your true pain source before you consider ways of dealing with pain relief.

There are many different kinds of pain, and the biology of pain will vary depending on what kind of pain you have. At the same time, as debilitating as it can be, it is important to remember that pain is there for a reason. Our bodies are telling us something when we are in pain. Getting to the root of your pain and the sources of your pain will help you and your doctors to treat the pain effectively so that you can live a full and happy life. Learn more about how to identify your true pain source right here.

Understanding Pain Signals

There are many different kinds of pain and different kinds of pain signals. There are acute pain, chronic pain, and different kinds of pain signals. Acute pain is pain that is a short-term kind of pain that doesn’t last very long. It can come with a sprained ankle, a persistent headache, or even period cramps.

Acute pain signals are also different from chronic pain signals. Acute pain signals are often very sharp and momentary. And the pain comes and goes. That is not to say that acute pain is not serious, a broken bone can also cause acute pain.

Chronic pain is classified as pain that lasts longer than six months, even when the original cause of the pain has healed or recovered. For many people, chronic pain lasts for years and can be either very mild or very severe. There is no one-size answer to what chronic pain looks like, or even what causes it. It typically presents as a low or dull pain that just won’t go away.

Whenever the body is in pain, it needs energy to fight it. That makes dealing with pain an exhausting experience. People with chronic pain will generally have very low energy levels and their mobility will suffer. You might have chronic pain from migraines, headache issues, nerve damage, back problems, conditions such as fibromyalgia, or other conditions such as arthritis.

The most common kind of pain is nociceptive pain, and it is a kind of pain that everyone feels. This pain comes after an injury or a wound such as with surgery. Nociceptors are all over the body, with many of them being found on the skin. When the body is harmed or hurt, these pain receptors will trigger, and your body will tell you that something is wrong and this pain should not be happening.

Visceral pain is a more internal pain and typically comes from the internal organs. So, your stomach might hurt after eating too many gassy food items, or you may have pain in the lungs with pneumonia. Any kind of damage to the organs will also cause visceral pain that feels like a large pressure or squeezing from the inside. The cramping from menstrual cramps is another kind of visceral pain, but pain like gallbladder pain and appendicitis are other kinds of visceral pain.

Somatic pain is a kind of pain that occurs when your pain receptors in your tissues. This is like the pain with arthritis, where the pain is kind of gnawing at you. At the same time, you might have somatic pain from a broken bone that has healed somewhat considerably or from a minor burn. You may also have somatic pain when you sprain or strain a muscle such as an ankle during a sporting event or game.

Neuropathy or neuropathic pain is a kind of pain that is caused by nerve damage or nerve compression. Nerves are the body tissues that send us pain signals that help us to know we are in pain. When a nerve is damaged, the pain is severe. It can be a burning or a freezing pain, but it is also characterized by a sharp and shooting pain that goes through the entire nerve and up or down the body part that is experiencing it.

How to identify your true pain source

Common Mistakes in Identifying Pain

Because there are so many different kinds of pain and causes of pain, understanding how to treat it can be difficult. The biology of pain is going to be different for every kind of pain, and understanding the components of pain for a specific issue can be complex. At the same time, while pain signals are very specific, every human is different and has a different way of discussing how they are feeling pain.

Communication is key in understanding pain, and doctors can have a difficult time understanding what someone is trying to say about their pain. At the same time, pain is scary, and many people don’t want to report it at all. Pain is also very emotionally troubling, and this is an important part of the biology of pain that makes it difficult to understand and communicate. The kind of pain also plays a role in learning how to identify your true pain source.

For visceral and neuropathic pain, the pain is invisible. It is also scary. If we have a wound on our hand, we know what is causing the pain and don’t feel so bad about it. If we can’t see it, we worry more about the pain and this can even make the pain worse.

Step-by-Step Guide to Identifying Pain Source

Doctors and loved ones will use a wide range of tools and steps to identify the source of your pain. The look on your face will be very telling when it comes to determining pain. Pain will make us sad, but it will also make us wince or move our face with nose wrinkling, lip twitching or pulling, and blinking of the eye. We also make sounds when we are in pain, such as groaning and moaning because we just can’t help it.

Noisy breathing is another indicator of pain, and even screaming is, of course, another indicator of pain. Pain is also very stressful, and it can make us angry, which can be another indicator that there is a serious pain problem. Doctors will look for bodily movements as well. They will try and determine if you are walking differently, fidgeting, or more tense than usual.

Other things your doctor will check after checking your facial expressions and how you are walking or talking will be your emotional state. If you are very angry or very sad, you may be showing pain indicators. You may also experience confusion or irritability. Before giving you any medical testing, your doctor will want to see all of these things about you to get a better idea of what kind of pain that you are having.

When your doctor has examined you for these signs, they will begin to look for the components of your pain and the biology of your pain to get a better idea of what is causing the pain. If there is no known cause, diagnostic imaging will likely be the next step in learning how to identify your true pain source. You may know you have ankle pain, but may not know if it is a break or a sprain for example. After diagnostic imaging, your doctor will help you to determine how to treat the pain effectively.

A doctor can identify your true pain source

Seeking Professional Guidance

If your pain has gone on for longer than a few days and feels like it is debilitating, you will want to talk to a doctor. Remember that when your body is in pain, your body is telling you something. You want to have that pain identified as soon as possible so that you can treat the pain and make it go away for good. The sooner that you have your pain assessed, the sooner you will start to feel better.

A common question for pain management is, ‘How would you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?’. You want to answer this honestly for the doctor as they will be able to determine what kind of pain you have during your treatment. It’s okay to tell your doctor that you are in pain, even if it is scary to you. Scary pain does not always mean a scary problem, and it is important to seek medical advice quickly when you are in pain.

Lifestyle Changes for Pain Management

There are many different things that you can do with your current lifestyle to manage your pain. The healthier you live, the less pain you will feel. Exercise is the first thing you want to bring into your life if you are experiencing pain. Physical activity releases endorphins from the brain that help you to feel happier overall, and excited to live your life to the fullest.

It will also help to keep your organs working together seamlessly as well. Exercise can also help to keep your weight healthy so that you don’t put excess pressure on the bones and tissues that might experience pain. If you have chronic pain, find a way to exercise in a low-impact way, such as through swimming, yoga, or other light activities that will help you to feel good.

With rest comes healing, making sleep an ideal way to find relief from pain. During sleep, cell division in the area of pain works differently because our conscious bodies are only focused on one thing; sleeping. Your body doesn’t have to work harder to do other things. Make a point of sleeping more and sleeping better when you are in pain, and you will begin to feel better about your life overall with improved sleep.

Identify Your True Pain Source

Pain is an awful experience in life and one that we always want to avoid. It is scary, and it is mentally and physically exhausting, and it is not in your head or imagined. When you are in pain, seek medical attention if it has not gone away in a few days. Find ways to de-stress, or your pain could get worse. Don’t be afraid to seek the relief you need from pain from an expert that can help you to understand that yes it is real, and you can get the relief you need.


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Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK219252/
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12051-acute-vs-chronic-pain
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15833-neuropathic-pain
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm?s_cid=mm6736a2_w