Nociceptive pain represents the normal response to noxious insult or injury of tissues such as skin, muscles, visceral organs, joints, tendons, or bones

Nociceptive pain is the most common type of pain and is caused by the detection of noxious or potentially harmful stimuli by the nociceptors around the body.

Nociceptive pain represents the normal response to noxious insult or injury of tissues such as skin, muscles, visceral organs, joints, tendons, or bones. Dr Steven Richeimer (The Richeimer Pain Institute and Chief, Division of Pain Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California) gives the following examples of nociceptive pain: Sprains, bone fractures, burns, bumps, bruises, inflammation (from an infection or arthritic disorder), obstructions, and myofascial pain (which may indicate abnormal muscle stresses). “Nociceptors are the nerves which sense and respond to parts of the body which suffer from damage”, explains Dr Richeimer. “They signal tissue irritation, impending injury, or actual injury. When activated, they transmit pain signals (via the peripheral nerves as well as the spinal cord) to the brain. The pain is typically well localised, constant, and often with an aching or throbbing quality. Visceral pain is the subtype of nociceptive pain that involves the internal organs. It tends to be episodic and poorly localised. “Nociceptive pain is usually time limited, meaning when the tissue damage heals, the pain typically resolves. (Arthritis is a notable exception in that it is not time limited.) Another characteristic of nociceptive pain is that it tends to respond well to treatment with opioids.”

Pain intensity

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) says pain intensity can be broadly categorised as mild, moderate, and severe. “It is common to use a numeric scale to rate pain intensity where 0 = no pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable.”

Pain duration

UWSMPH also emphasises the classification of pain based on duration:

  • Acute pain: pain of less than 3 to 6 months duration.
  • Chronic pain: pain lasting for more than 3-6 months, or persisting beyond the course of an acute disease, or after tissue healing is complete.
  • Acute vs chronic pain: Acute pain can be described as the pain you get after you bang your knee, have an operation or a heart attack. “It lasts for a limited period of time and usually responds well to medication. “Chronic pain is pain which persists or recurs for more than three months. It is now recognised as a condition in its own right.” “Many acute pains are like an alarm telling us something is wrong,” explains the British Pain Society. “Most minor ones are easy to treat; others may be a sign of something more serious. For example the pain of a broken leg will make us rest the leg until it heals. Here the pain is helping.”