Types of Pain, Cause of Pain and Pain Treatments

Types of Pain, Its Causes And Pain Treatments

Every human being experiences pain. The question is, what type of pain are you suffering from and what is causing it? More importantly, do you have to use mainstream pain treatments like drugs or surgery, or are there other options?

These are questions we answer in this comprehensive guide to pain, the universal human experience.

What Is Pain?

Pain is what one feels when something hurts somewhere in the body. It is the body’s way of saying that something is wrong.

Typically, pain is an indicator that the body has become injured in some way. The injury could be as minor as a cat scratch on the skin, or as serious as an ulcer in the stomach.

Whenever one feels pain, they should try to find out the cause, especially if it becomes increasingly unbearable.

What Are the Types Of Pain?

Pain falls into two main categories: acute and chronic.

Tennis Elbow Pain Treatments
Tennis Elbow

What Is Acute Pain?

Acute pain comes on suddenly and can disappear just as quickly. In the long-term, acute pain doesn’t usually linger longer than 6 months. It has a specific cause, which is usually treatable. As soon as the cause goes away, so does the pain.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t go away after six months. It’s commonly the result of a serious injury or an underlying disease that either hasn’t fully healed, or it has healed but the brain is still sending pain signals throughout the body.

People who experience chronic pain, depending on their pain level, may need physical therapy to bring them relief.

Neck Pain treatment
Neck Pain

What Causes Acute Pain?

One may experience acute pain from something simple, like bumping a knee against a piece of furniture, or from a more serious injury, such as breaking an ankle.

In these types of cases, the pain goes away when the body has healed, or the source of trauma has been removed.

Depending on the source of the acute pain and the level of hurt being experienced, one may find relief through certain types of physical therapy, icing, and/or rest.

” a report published by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) showed that in 2019, 20.4% of American adults suffered from chronic pain.”

What Causes Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is caused by diseases, injuries, disorders, or bodily conditions that don’t resolve within six months. It’s long-term, which means one could experience it for years or even for the rest of one’s life.

One may also experience chronic pain if any nerves become damaged or inflamed. This can happen as a result of injury, disease, or even a completely unknown cause.

Below are some common causes of chronic pain.

1.   Cancer

Cancer patients deal with pain on a daily basis. The intensity of the pain depends on the type of cancer and how far it has advanced. It may also depend on the individual’s level of pain tolerance.

Pain from cancer can be caused by a growth pushing against parts of the body, such as organs, bones, and nerves. Cancer treatment, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can also cause severe pain. And of course, if a person has surgery to remove the cancer, they will also experience discomfort in the aftermath.

2.   Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain throughout the muscles and bones.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the common belief among researchers is that repeated stimulation of the nervous system causes an increase in the brain chemicals that register pain. Pain receptors in the brain may also become more sensitive, which leads them to register pain even when there is nothing to cause it, or else the cause is minor.

There is not a single cause, but it can result from a serious physical or emotional trauma or a serious infection. It can also be inherited.

Research has also shown that women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men.

3.   Arthritis

Arthritis is common in the United States, affecting around 24% of the adult population. It involves joint pain, inflammation, and swelling.

There are several different types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most likely to occur.


Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage that cushions the meeting point between two bones. The removal of this cartilage causes the bones to rub against one another.

The side effects are quite painful and get worse with age and activity.

One can develop arthritis over time, or as a result of a serious injury such as a bone breaking.

Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease because it is caused by the immune system attacking the lining of the joint capsule. The joint capsule is a tough membrane that wraps around all the components of the joint. Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis may destroy the bone and cartilage as well as the joint capsule.

4.   Lymphedema

Lymphedema occurs when parts of the human body swell up with lymphatic fluid.

Under normal circumstances, this fluid drains out through the lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. But when one or more of the lymph nodes or lymph vessels are damaged or removed – e.g., as a result of cancer treatment – the system becomes backed up, like a blocked pipe.

The swelling can occur in a limb, such as an arm or leg, or even in neck, chest, abdomen, and genitals.

Like most swelling, lymphedema is often inflammatory and painful. It also causes thickening of the skin.

How To Prevent Pain?

Preventing pain is mostly a matter of staying safe and healthy, both physically and mentally.

Here are 3 ways to prevent pain.

  1. By safely enjoying physical activities such as sports and exercising and not overextending oneself, one can avoid injuries that could lead to the development of both acute and chronic pain.
  2. By cultivating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine, one can ensure the body gets all the nutrients it needs to remain vital and strong, thus minimizing the chances they will suffer a serious illness or injury.
  3. By maintaining good mental health. Ways to accomplish this include meditating, going to therapy, staying off social media, and creating a home environment that is as stress-free as possible.

Pain Treatments

Sometimes, though, all the preventative treatments in the world aren’t enough to deflect pain. In fact, a report published by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) showed that in 2019, 20.4% of American adults suffered from chronic pain. That’s one-fifth of the adult population.

Acute or chronic pain will visit everyone in their lifetimes. Fortunately, there are plenty of mainstream as well as alternative options for pain treatments.

Mainstream Pain Treatments

Mainstream pain treatments are so called because they are the go-to options used by the majority of doctors, nurses, and therapists in the United States. They are widely supported by scientific evidence and are thus considered safe to use.

  1. Drugs: For people suffering from acute or chronic pain, the primary treatment of choice of most healthcare professionals will be a pain-relieving pill or drug. If the pain is bad enough and the sufferer goes to a hospital, they may receive narcotics (AKA opioids) such as fentanyl or morphine. They could also take it at home in the form of a prescription pill.These drugs are administered with strict guidelines. The reason for this is that narcotics are extremely addictive. In fact, people with chronic pain are more at risk for developing an addiction to narcotics.Other medicines prescribed for pain, both acute and chronic, include over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), like ibuprofen. Another over-the-counter drug is acetaminophen.
  2. Surgery: Surgery may be used to relieve pain depending on the source of the pain. For example, if the cause of the pain is a broken bone, surgery is used to repair the break. After the surgery is complete and the surgery site is allowed to completely heal, the pain will usually go away.

Alternative Pain Treatments

Alternative pain treatments are the non-standard treatments of pain which are often not as well-researched. These eschew drugs and surgery, and instead treat the pain using elements in nature, such as water, heat, or herbs.

Here are 4 increasingly popular alternative pain treatments.

1. Acoustic Wave Therapy

Acoustic wave therapy (AKA shockwave therapy) is the process of applying acoustic shocks to parts of the body that are in pain to activate certain cells within the bones and connective tissues. The shockwaves stretch the membranes of these cells and enable them to become permeable to specific ions and molecules. Those ions and molecules promote the process of healing.

Body R-N-R uses acoustic wave therapy as part of our pain treatment options for fibromyalgia, acute and chronic injuries (bursitis, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, jumper’s knee), and recovery from orthopedic procedures.

2. Lymphatic Drainage Massage 

Lymphatic drainage  massages help reduce pain symptoms of lymphedema by encouraging the movement of sluggish lymphatic fluid throughout the body.

A more precise and consistent way to provide lymphatic massage is by using the BallancerPro. The BallancerPro, available at Body R-N-R, is a compression system in the form of a jacket and a pair of pants. It helps flush lymphatic fluid and toxins out of the body, thereby reducing swelling and pain.

Blissed Out while Getting a BallancerPro Treatment

3. Hydrotherapy 

Hydrotherapy is a pain treatment commonly used for arthritis, amputations, and injured muscles. It typically involves soaking the area of the body that is in pain in warm or hot water.

4. Heat Therapy 

Heat therapy is an effective pain treatment option and works by dilating the blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the area of the body that is injured or inflamed. It can be administered through dry heat, as through a heating pad, or moist heat, as through a warm bath.


Pain is always an ordeal, whether it’s acute or chronic. For anyone dealing with long-term pain, up to 3-6 months or longer, they may benefit from using alternative pain treatments such as acoustic wave therapy or BallancerPro. These are drug-free, meaning there is no risk of becoming addicted to a dangerous medication. They are also relaxing for the mind as well as the body.




About the Author

Alisa La Liberte, MSN, RN began her career in 1992 in Los Angeles and has served in various roles in hospitals, schools, & clinics throughout the country. She earned her Master of Science in Nursing at UCSF, as a Cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Specialist. Alisa’s strong background in clinical research pushed her to launch Body R-N-R, a wellness practice in Scottsdale, AZ, with technology backed by clinical studies. Read more about Alisa here.

Alisa La Liberte, MSN, RN, Founder of Body R-N-R

Alisa La Liberte MSN, RN

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