Classifications of Pain


Classifications of Pain

Pain is generally defined as any sort of unpleasant or uncomfortable sensation in the body. When it comes to managing and mitigating pain, however, it is important to classify and target certain kinds of pain specifically.

These classifications of pain cover the sensation types as well as the associated body parts affected. The combinatory descriptions are vital for diagnosis and treatment by specialists. Learning the difference between acute and chronic pain as well as their associated symptoms is recommended before you consult anyone for pain management treatment.

Read below to see which classification of pain you might be able to identify in yourself or someone you’re assisting.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain

Most people are aware of these two types of pain but have a hard time differentiating them in a descriptive manner.

Put simply; acute pain can be mild and intermittent, often lasting for a few weeks at most. Chronic pain is ongoing and usually lasts months or longer. However, both can require immediate treatment, and distinguishing what type of ailment someone has will be key to correct treatment.

Additionally, a complaint that might be classified as acute pain in the hip or knee may be investigated as chronic for head, neck, or back ailments. Teaching the difference correctly and helping patients categorize pain is going to make everyone’s life easier.

Finally, if it is difficult to distinguish (which is extremely common), a specialist can use varied symptoms to help get out in front of an injury to provide proper relief.

If you are going to be working with a specialist, make sure to describe in condensed terms what you think the issue might be. For example, ‘acute knee pain’ will go a lot further than ‘leg hurts.’ While this seems extremely intuitive, you’d be surprised at how difficult it is for specialists and patients to get on the same page, especially when someone is distracted by pain.

With that in mind, below are some of the most commonly treated areas of injury we deal with.


Oh, my aching… 

Head: While this will be one of the more difficult external diagnoses (especially if there is no direct trauma with evident superficial damage), you’re going to have to classify the type of head pain present.

Especially as both chronic and acute head pain, along with certain additional symptoms, can signal very distressing possibilities, making it a priority to get this diagnosis right.

Neck: Another nuanced region full of nerves, neck pain is not to be taken lightly. In fact, it is estimated that 50 percent of ‘acute’ neck pain actually is or becomes chronic, which can lead to all sorts of issues with sleep, posture, and overall quality of life.

Neck pain and headaches are closely tied together, as well. Especially if it is chronic neck pain, the muscles constantly being in duress can lead to these headaches. This becomes an even worse pathway, as suddenly, you have another pain you have to classify!

Shoulder: While the shoulder is a more precise area of injury than the head and neck, it has many smaller components that will need to be identified via your pain type. There are plenty of tests a specialist can do without having to scan to determine how significant a shoulder injury is, but socket-joints can become distressed easily and have long-term damage.  We can add that frequently shoulder pain is pain radiating from the neck.

Back: The preeminent complaint about chronic pain is back pain. As your spine is in command of most neural pathways in your body, it is extremely easy for things to get out of whack in your back.

A precise diagnosis is crucial but also difficult to get without some proper identification. Be sure to explain what the difference between symptoms are and be able to test acute vs. chronic back pain side effects.

Hip: Hip replacement surgeries have increased by over 50 percent in the last decade. This is due to better technique and pricing, but also because when uncared for, hips just wear out.




Additionally, hips are a significant source of other structural issues in the body — tight hips can affect hamstrings and backs, or an injured hip will cause overcompensation in your gait. While it might seem like mild or acute hip pain at first, it is essential not to let it turn into a chronic and debilitating issue.  Similar to the relationship between shoulder and neck pain, hip pain may actually be pain radiating from the low back.

Knee: Knees, like shoulders, have lots of parts that can be damaged without distinct trauma occurring. This can lead to people dismissing minor knee pain when, in fact, it could be an issue with cartilage or a compromised ligament.

Especially as the most damaging injuries from knees are often long-lasting and due to prior wear and tear, we recommend figuring out what your knee pain means before it becomes something serious.

Conditions and Injuries: This is where acute vs. chronic pain becomes a significant distinction.

If you suffer chronic pain in most regions, it may be classified as a condition. The problem here is that acute pain via injuries can lead to this if untreated. This is why we take pain classifications so seriously.

For example, if you have acute hip pain while walking or lower back pain while running, it is not recommended to push through it before getting diagnosis and treatment. If you have pre-existing conditions that cause either acute or chronic pain during certain activities, it might be necessary to see a specialist and rehab.

Arthritis: Luckily, these symptoms are easy to identify early for most forms of arthritis. Unfortunately, there is a wide range of arthritis types, including osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, and they can cause both acute and chronic pain in most parts of your body.

Ensuring you get a correct diagnosis and treatment plan for your specific arthritis will immensely relieve your pain.

Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is often mistaken for many different types of ailments, as its symptoms are broad. General pain, fatigue, sleep and mood problems, and other conditions persist. Thus, it can take a long time for fibromyalgia to be properly diagnosed.

The ability to properly classify pain becomes handy for the process of elimination by specialists, which can then let them get to a fibromyalgia diagnosis. From there, the specific treatment plan for fibromyalgia is also dependent on your most common symptoms. Once more, acute vs. chronic pain and your affected body parts will be the determinant.



Find Pain Relief at Pinnacle Pain and Spine

Being able to properly identify pain can be life-changing.

Acute vs. chronic knee pain when you’re walking can differentiate how a specialist views the scope of injury. Given that pain is your body’s nervous system signaling something is wrong, we certainly don’t recommend ignoring it.

If you believe that you have acute or chronic pain that constitutes a condition worth treating, we would love to help. Reach out to us today for the possibility of relief.

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