What is Visceral Pain?
Visceral pain is a form of nociceptive pain, which originates from the internal organs. Visceral pain is the pain, which occurs in the region of the trunk of the body that includes the lungs, heart, abdominal and pelvic organs. Some of the examples of visceral pain consist of: Chronic chest pain, appendicitis, diverticulitis, gallstones and pelvic pain. About 25% of the total population suffers from visceral pain. Visceral pain when compared to somatic pain is harder to pinpoint in regards to its location in the body.
What are the Symptoms of Visceral Pain?
Visceral pain is commonly felt as generalized squeezing or aching in the body. This pain is caused by pressure or compression in and around the organs, or due to stretching of the peritoneum. In some patients, the visceral pain can also radiate to other parts of the body, which results in even greater difficulty to pinpoint its exact location.
What is the Difference Between Deep and Superficial or Visceral Pain?
When there is a cut on your finger, you experience abrupt and sharp pain. However, in case of deeper organs, such as bladder or intestines, there are no receptors present there to transmit sharp and rapid pain. This is what makes the timing and quality of the visceral pain different from the superficial pain.
Additionally, when you have cut your finger, the site/source of the pain is clear and one is able to localize where the pain is coming from. However, in case of deeper, visceral pain, it becomes difficult to exactly tell or locate the source of the pain, as many a times the pain can be referred. Example, the pain from the heart can radiate to the neck and the left arm; whereas the pain from the bladder can radiate to the perineum. This makes it difficult to diagnose the source of the visceral pain.
Along with visceral pain, patient often also experiences systemic symptoms, such as nausea, paleness, sweating, and changes in heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. Other difference between visceral pain and superficial pain is that visceral pain tends to radiate to other parts of the body, which makes the pain diffuse and very unpleasant.
The primary reason for the difference in the timing and location of visceral pain when compared to somatic pain is the less number of sensory receptors present in the internal organs or the viscera.
How is Visceral Pain Treated?
Treating the underlying condition of the Visceral Pain will help in relieving the Visceral Pain. Weak Opioids, such as codeine are beneficial in treating the visceral pain.
However, stronger Opioids, such as morphine can also be used. It is to be remembered that opioids have very unpleasant side effects, such as sleepiness and constipation. The patient is also at risk for addiction and/or tolerance to opioids.
Research is going on for better treatment options for visceral pain. One such medication is Lyrica (Pregabalin) which is used to treat fibromyalgia, which is also a visceral pain condition resulting in diffuse muscle tenderness and other symptoms.
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