Localized vs. Radicular Pain: Decoding Your Discomfort

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Pain Comes in Many Forms...

Pain is a part of everyday life, and while the experience of pain is different for every person, knowing and understanding the various types can help make it easier to define and treat. Medical specialists differentiate pain into two complementary aspects: localized and radicular.

What is Localized Pain?

Localized pain, sometimes referred to as somatic pain, is pain that is confined or restricted to a particular area of the body. This type of pain is typically felt at the site of an injury or inflammation and is usually a constant pain that is stimulated by movement in that region. Examples of localized pain include the focused, throbbing pain felt in a sprained ankle or a toothache.

The Anatomy of Localized Pain

When a person experiences localized pain, it is usually the result of significant impairment or inflammation in a specific part of the body. This damage releases prostaglandins, which are chemical messengers that activate local pain receptors. This sensation of pain is then perceived and interpreted by the brain.

Many factors affect the sensation of localized pain. For instance, pain in the muscle or joints may often be described as dull or achy, while pain in the skin is typically described as sharp, itching, or burning. One's overall health, the extent of damage to an area, and the presence of infection are additional aspects that can impact the experienced sensations. Because the nociceptors are only activated in a specific region, the pain remains isolated to one part of the body and is classified as localized pain. If, on the other hand, the damage is internal and the pain travels from one region of the body to another, it is defined as radicular pain.

What is Radicular Pain?

Radicular pain is pain that is not localized to one area of the body, but is instead experienced in various regions. This pain is usually described as a sharp or stabbing sensation in the back, arms, legs, or shoulders and tends to worsen with movement. Radicular pain  tends to result from injuries or conditions affecting the spinal cord.

The Anatomy of Radicular Pain

Radicular pain occurs when damage is inflicted upon spinal nerves, causing them to be compressed or inflamed. These spinal nerves travel down the spinal cord and extend out to the rest of the body, so it makes sense that irritation and pain signals will follow a similar path. In addition to pain, symptoms of radiculopathy often include weakness, numbness, and tingling in the limbs. Common causes of this pain include herniated disks, spinal stenosis, or other degenerative changes in the spine.

Classifying Your Pain

Understanding and recognizing the differences between localized pain and radicular pain is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment. While localized pain is concentrated in one area due to a constrained injury, radicular pain is often experienced in multiple regions of the body and results from damage to nerves near the spinal cord. By identifying the source and nature of pain, appropriate medical care and treatment can be effectively diagnosed, and the pain can be successfully managed. Book your initial consultation with Dr. Matthew Kohler of Ospina Medical today to get started on your pain relief journey.

Written By: Sudheshna Thirunahari

Edited By: Camden Rowe

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.