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Chronic and Recurring Pain—Different Types of Pain

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It is safe to say that every single person on this planet is familiar with pain. We stub our toes, bang our thumbs with hammers, get headaches, cuts, scrapes, and more.

But in the majority of these cases, the pain goes away. We say a few choice words and grab our toes or thumbs and after a few minutes, we feel better. Or a couple of Advil later, the headache is gone.

In the case of chronic or recurring pain though, things are different. This type of pain keeps on going. For days, weeks, months, and even years, the person with chronic pain keeps on hurting. Sometimes, the pain is a result of something identifiable and tangible—arthritis perhaps or an injury like whiplash or something else. But in other cases, the pain just shows up and no one knows why.

To use fancier terms, there are two types of pain, both of which might be recurring. One is called nociceptive and the other is neuropathic. Nociceptive pain is the normal pain response and is what we feel when we do any of the things listed above. It can be temporary or chronic, and it typically responds pretty well to pain medicine.

Neuropathic pain is caused when our nervous systems goof up. The pain is not part of a typical pain response, although something might initially trigger it like illness or injury. Neuropathic pain tends to be chronic and pain medication doesn’t usually do much to make it go away.

The way that chronic pain presents itself can also be different from person to person. For some, it feels like burning or tingling. For others it’s mostly stiffness and limited mobility. Others feel more of a shooting or stabbing pain.

As you might suspect, chronic pain that just won’t go away no matter what can make life miserable for the person who has it. In many cases, people suffering from recurring or chronic pain have trouble working, eating, maintaining relationships and/or sleeping. They can become depressed and irritable. In an effort to feel better, many people with chronic pain take a bunch of pain relievers which may or may not help. Sometimes folks get dependent on these drugs.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.