Somatic and Visceral Pain – Do You Know the Difference?

Are you familiar with Somatic and Visceral Pain, or have you ever even heard the terms “somatic” or “visceral”. When it comes to pain, knowing the type and where it comes from can be important for better communicating with your healthcare provider. The more information that you can give them, the faster they’ll be able to assess and treat the source of your pain. And when it comes to treating pain, we tend to like to be in as little pain as possible. 

Somatic pain is from the soft tissues – primarily your skin and muscles. It tends to be more intense pain and is often described as “musculoskeletal”. It’s also much easier to locate than visceral pain. 

Somatic pain can be deep or superficial, with the deeper pain coming from the skeletal structure, tendons, and muscles. It can be described as aching, cramping, gnawing, or even sharp. It usually appears in one area of the body, and movement can trigger it. Cuts, headaches, and pelvic pain can all be classified under Somatic pain. 

Visceral pain is vague and occurs in the abdomen, chest, intestines, or pelvis. It’s experienced due to damage of internal organs and tissues, and it’s not well understood. It’s also not always clearly defined pain, but it is internal pain. Examples of visceral pain are bladder pain, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and prostate pain.

Some describe visceral pain as a generalized squeezing or aching. While some causes of this type of pain are due to internal injuries or damage, other causes include muscle spasms, indigestion, infections, some cancers, and specific biological functions. Menstrual pain is a type of visceral pain for example. 

In most cases, both somatic and visceral pain will diminish and resolve themselves after a few days. In the event that the pain is severe or doesn’t subside after a week, you should seek medical care. Your ability to describe the type of pain will help your doctor choose the best plan of treatment for your pain.