What types of pain are there?

Because pain is such a complex phenomenon, there are a number of different types and different ways of talking about it. For example, you may describe pain by talking about an injury that you believe caused it. Or perhaps you may not be sure what is causing the pain – you just know how long you have been experiencing it, and how bad it feels.1

Healthcare professionals use a variety of ‘pain classification systems’ to describe pain, each of which looks at pain from a certain point of view.1

For example, you can describe pain by talking about:

  • The part of the body affected by the pain1
  • The cause of the pain1
  • Pain intensity1
  • How long you have been experiencing the pain1 (acute or chronic2)
  • The processes inside the body that are contributing to the pain1

Which classification system is best for my pain?

Pain often falls into more than one category, so healthcare professionals may combine several different classification systems when assessing pain. This can help them with their diagnosis and help them to suggest the best treatment plan for you.1

Pain is more than just a sensation

For many people with pain, the success of their treatment depends on both the patient and their healthcare professionals recognising that pain is more than just a physical sensation. Even when we’re trying to classify pain and put it into categories, it is important to remember that things like genetics, other medical conditions, psychological factors, social factors and financial situations can really affect how you might respond to both pain and pain management.2

To access more information on how you can play a role in improving your communication with your healthcare team, so that they may tailor any treatment plans to your unique needs.


  1. Orr PM, et al. The Role of Pain Classification Systems in Pain Management. Crit Care Nurs Clin N Am. 2017;29:407–18.
  2. Stanos S, et al. Rethinking chronic pain in a primary care setting. Postgrad Med. 2016;128(5):502–15.

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