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What is pain and dysfunction

Updated: May 21

5 Common Types of Pain

Typically there are 5 common types of pain, however, some pain can fit into more than one category which can sometimes cause complications:

  1. Acute - Short lasting from a few minutes to up to 6 weeks and is typically relates to a soft-tissue injury or a temporary illness and usually subsides after the tissues heals or the illness subsides. This pain can turn into chronic pain if the injury doesn't heal correctly or the pain signals malfunction.

  2. Chronic - Longer lasting pain, usually for more than 12 weeks. It can be constant or intermittent and is often linked to a health condition like arthritis or fibromyalgia.

  3. Nociceptive - This is a common type of pain and is typically the result of tissue injury or damage such as joint sprains and muscle strains. This is usually described as sharp, achy or throbbing pain and is experienced in the joints, muscles, skin, tendons and bones. It can be both acute or chronic.

  4. Neuropathic- This can be commonly linked to chronic pain and occurs from damage to the nerves or other parts of the nervous system. It is often described as shooting, stabbing or burning and can feel like pins and needles. It can come and go or stay for longer periods of time.

  5. Radicular - is a specific type of pain when the spinal nerves get inflamed or compressed. It can commonly be called sciatica because the pain is due to the sciatic nerve being affected, and there is a deep pain radiating from the back into leg, this is also known as radiculopathy. Accompanying sensations are tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. Not all radicular pain is sciatica but it is the most common.

If you’ve had pain for a long time (over 6 months) which hasn’t eased, or your pain eases and comes back multiple times, then it’s likely that the pain experience is alerting you to the fact that the underlying cause hasn’t changed, ie, you may have some compression or strain on certain tissues that are becoming distressed. This is commonly related to specific postures or if you do repeated movements which cause pressure on certain tissues.

This repeated activation of your pain receptors can result in your nervous system changing and becoming more sensitive, so, what might start as a niggle (we call this a whisper), can become a constant ache (a shout) even though there is no difference to your tissues. It’s always best to address your whispers before your body starts to try to alert you more by shouting at you!

What is dysfunction?

Dysfunction is difficulty performing a task (Such as squatting, lifting, bending etc) due to your bio-mechanical issue. Most often, persistent MSK pain or stiffness is caused by bio-mechanical issues, ie, how easy it is for all your body parts to move efficiently. If you are stiff and tight in one area, this can affect other areas.

For example, if you suffer from knee pain, this might be due to your knee joint. You could be having issues with this joint (it’s sore to kneel, squat or descend stairs) because your thigh muscles are tight. This makes the underside of your kneecap rub on the edge of the joint causing you pain and an inability to move your knee properly - dysfunction. In this case, your thigh muscles might be tight because your hip is stiff, and your hip might be stiff because your opposite shoulder and neck are tight. Your knee symptoms are the result of bio-mechanical issues affecting multiple parts of your body and you may not even notice the pain or stiffness in other parts of your body. This is why we use a whole-body approach to rehab in this 4-week programme to ensure that we’re addressing as many of your bio-mechanical issues, even the ones you’re not aware of, so we can help ease your symptoms.

If you're suffering from pain, you check out our services specifically designed to help you combat all types of musculoskeletal pain. Read more about our approach here.

If you still aren't sure and would like some more advice, get in touch at and we will be happy to point you in the right direction.

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