There are different types of pain:

• acute pain starts suddenly and is short-term

• chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time

• breakthrough pain often happens in between regular, scheduled painkillers

• bone pain happens when cancer is affecting a bone

• soft tissue pain happens when organs, muscles or tissues are damaged or inflamed

• nerve pain happens when a nerve is damaged

• referred pain is when pain from one part of your body is felt in another

• phantom pain is when there is pain in a part of the body that has been removed

• total pain includes the emotional, social and spiritual factors that affect a person’s pain experience.

Pain does not feel the same for everyone. Describing your pain clearly will help your doctor or nurse find the best treatment for you.

Tell your healthcare team where the pain is, what it is like (for example dull, sharp, burning), how bad it is and when it happens. Keeping a pain diary can help you explain your pain to your doctor or nurse.


What is your pain like?

Use any of the following words that best describe your pain:

  • aching • biting • blunt • burning • cold • comes and goes • constant • crushing • cutting
  • dragging • dull • excruciating • frightful • gnawing • hot • intense • nagging • nauseating • niggling
  • numb • penetrating • piercing • pins and needles • pricking • radiating • scratchy • sharp • shooting
  • smarting • sore • spreading • stabbing • stinging • tender • throbbing • tingling • tiring • unbearable.

What are the three types of pain?


Three main types of pathophysiology can be considered to result in pain in the majority of patients: nociceptive pain, neuropathic pain, and sensory hypersensitivity.


It is important to recognize that multiple pain conditions may coexist, and chronic pain may change over time.



  1. Phillips K, Clauw DJ. Central pain mechanisms in chronic pain states—maybe it is all in their head. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2011;25(2):141-154. PMID: 22094191




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