Not All Pain is Created Equal

There are many different ways to describe what we feel. The words we use to describe pain may help identify the structures involved, whether muscle, nerve, bone, joint, or visceral in nature. As a practitioner, I find that patients who can accurately describe their pain, help to give us a better idea of how they need to be treated. Being able to describe any discomforts that are being experienced, may help your health care provider to develop a treatment plan that is best suitable for you!

The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain:

Acute pain occurs suddenly and often can be identified by a known mechanism of injury. This type of pain can last for a couple of days or weeks. Chronic pain may last for months if not years, and since many factors may contribute to the long-lasting discomfort, it is harder to pinpoint the exact mechanism of injury.

Here are a few commonly used words that help describe pain. Thinking about this vocabulary will help your RMT or Chiropractor identify the cause of the problem:


Achy may be muscular in origin due to poor posture by-cause of muscular imbalance, fatigue and repetitive overuse. This pain may not be super intense, however, it can be pretty broad and difficult to pinpoint the exact region of complaint.


Similar to Achy pain, it too is generally muscular in origin and difficult to localize, however, it may intensify or give rise to referral pain elsewhere when you put pressure on the affected area. Dull pain may also be joint or bone in origin as well.


With the skin primarily being affected, pain levels may vary. There can be a sensation of burning or the skin can feel sore to the touch.


Sharp pain is closely associated with nerve pain and can be described as electric or shooting as well. This pain can be pretty intense and may follow the distribution of a nerve down a limb. Sharp pain may also be due to a bone fracture, however, a known or unknown mechanism of injury may help rule out a fracture.


Similar to sharp pain, stabbing pain may occur in rapid waves fading and reoccurring. This pain may occur suddenly and intensely as well.


Primarily vascular in nature, throbbing can be subtle or intense. The sensation of a pulse in the area of concern will assist in naming this pain. Throbbing pain may be chronic or acute whether a sprained joint or headache.

Before booking an appointment, consider becoming familiar with some of the types of pain, as they could assist you in accurately verbalizing what your body is telling you. In doing so, you will be assisting your therapist in identifying the structures involved that may be causing your pain, hopefully leading you to a faster recovery! There are many different specialists that specialize in helping you treat your pain whether it’s a physiotherapistmassage therapist, or chiropractor.

Sheldon Lopes Pereira is a Registered Massage Therapist with a passion for health, anatomy, and physical activity. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology at York University, furthered his education by completing Mohawk College’s Advanced Diploma Massage Therapy program and will continue to be a perpetual scholar through life. You can book your massage with him today.


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