What is Pain??

What is pain??

Trying to answer questions like – what is pain and why something might hurt can be very useful for the patients we see at the Four Health Osteopathy clinic.

The definition of pain according to the dictionary is – ‘A highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.’

There are two broad categories of pain –

  1. Nociceptive pain – Pain associated with tissue damage
  2. Neuropathic pain – Pain arising from the nervous system

Nociceptive Pain –

This type of pain is what most people are familiar with. Nociceptive pain is caused by the stimulation of nociceptors which are sensory nerve fibres found all over your body due to tissue damage such as muscle strains or tears, impact trauma or broken bones to name but a few.

When you hurt yourself these nerve fibres are stimulated, they send a message through your nervous system to your brain where the information is interpreted. The result of this is a feeling of pain.

Nociceptive pain characteristics typically change with movement, load and position.

Neuropathic Pain –

This type of pain is caused by damage or disease to the nervous system itself. This can be due to trapped nerves, spinal cord damage, nutritional deficiencies or conditions such as diabetes, MS and strokes.

The symptoms that are common with neuropathic pain are – pins and needles, burning or coldness, numbness and itching.

Why do You Need to Feel Pain??

Simply put, you need to feel pain in order to protect yourself. Let’s say you over reach for something whilst gardening and strain a muscle in your back. Pain acts as your bodies alarm signal to let you know you’ve done something that’s compromised a muscle and caused damage. Pain may continue after the initial incident to give your body time to heal by reducing movement, it may cause you to temporarily stop what you’re doing and it serves to remind you to be careful with certain movements.

How can an Osteopath help??

The majority of patients will come to see us because they’re in pain. Helping people understand why they’re in pain, diagnosing the cause and ascertaining whether it is nociceptive, neuropathic or a combination of the two will help us form the most appropriate plan to help get you back to normality. Knowing what type of pain you’re suffering from also directs what type of treatment is appropriate to help you recover as quickly as possible.

Top Tip

As pain can be acting as your bodies alarm signal telling you that something isn’t quite right be careful when returning to the same level of activity pre-injury too quickly! The damaged tissues may still be vulnerable even if the pain has gone.


The question, ‘what is pain?’ is a very complex one. If you have any questions or would like more info please get in touch by email at – info@fourhealth.co.uk or give us a call on – 07932 022503.