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Chronic Pain (cont.)

General Somatic Pain (pain from the outer body)

  • Pains from the skin and muscles are easily localized by the brain because these pains are common. People have experienced general somatic pain since childhood when the person has fallen or been hit by a person or an object. Normally, somatic pain resolves in a few days.
  • Some people develop pain that never goes away. Fibromyalgia and chronic back pain can be in this category.
  • General somatic pain is often treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn) or with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Sometimes, opioids may be needed.

Visceral Pain (pain from the internal organs)

Pain originating in the internal organs is more difficult for a person to pinpoint. The connections from pain sensors in the internal organs to the brain are less sophisticated than the nerve connections from the skin and muscles. So, for example, gallbladder problems can cause right shoulder pain. Pain from acid indigestion or constipation is an example of visceral pain that is common and easy to recognize. These pains are easily treated and improve quickly either on their own or with treatment using nonprescription medicines.

Bone Pain

  • Pain in the bones from a bruise or a fracture is temporary. Pain from bone cancer, osteoporosis (softening of the bones that often appears in older people), osteomyelitis (an infection in a bone), or arthritis (inflammation of the joints) can last a long time.
  • Bone pain is gnawing and throbbing and may require long-term pain treatment. Bone pain from Paget's disease of bone can be treated with with bisphosphonates, such as alendronate (Fosamax). Sometimes, the NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen) are used. Sometimes opioids are needed.

Muscle Spasm (Muscle Cramps)

  • Muscle spasm, such as charley horse or cramp, can cause severe pain especially in the back. Pain medication alone may not be able to resolve the pain. Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) or baclofen (Lioresal) may be needed to relax the muscles.
Last Reviewed 11/21/2017

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