Two Types of Pain

There are Two Types of Pain: Which are You Suffering From?

Though there are many back-pain conditions, such as sciatica, scoliosis, and a herniated disc, we can narrow them down to two basic categories: nerve-based pain and tissue-based pain.

You may have one or the other, or you may have both. Some treatments will ease nerve pain, others improve tissue pain. Some might, in some cases, work for both. But determining the right treatment for your particular case can require some investigation. This is, incidentally, why so many back-pain sufferers find inconsistent relief.

Let me explain the differences between the two types of pain.

As the name suggests, nerve-based back pain is caused by a nerve that’s not happy for some reason. Typically, it’s being pressured, pinched, compressed, or bone.

For example, if a nerve is surrounded by or next to a muscle that’s unusually tight and inflexible, that muscle presses on the nerve, causing it to hurt. This is common in sciatica.

If a nearby piece of bone, such as a vertebra in your spinal column, is out of position, it also might press on the nerve, causing pain. These bones themselves may be out of position due to an overly tight or inflexible muscle nearby. In other words, the whole process may start with a tight muscle but end with a nerve that’s irritated by a bone.

Nerve pain often, but not always, is felt as a burning, tingling, sharp, shooting, electrical, or numb sensation, or like “pins and needles.”

Tissue-based pain, on the other hand, originates in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, or other connective tissues in the body. (Most commonly, the pain originates in the muscles.) Think back to the last time you gave someone a neck or back massage. You may recall feeling one or more “knots” in the muscles. These knots are one of the main causes of tissue-based pain. One way to tell if a knot is really a knot, or just a bone, is to see if it exists on both sides of the body in the exact same position. If it appears on both sides, it might be a bone or part of a joint. If it only appears on one side, it’s more likely a knot.

This knot is more formally known as a “trigger point.” I don’t know why it’s called this, but I suspect it’s because if you press firmly on it, it triggers pain. Trigger points also are known to trigger pain in areas of the body other than where they’re located, and this is called “referred pain.”

A trigger point is caused in part by a pooling of toxins in your muscle tissue–which, in turn, is usually caused by imbalances in your diet, excess negative stress, and/or damage to the actual muscle fibers as a result of an injury and/or excessive exercise or physical activity.

If you’re under a lot of stress, for example, your body’s natural tendency is to shift to more shallow breathing and to “freeze” parts of your upper body (clenched jaws and tense shoulders are a few examples). This “freezing” reduces the amount of oxygen in your body and slows the circulation of blood in certain areas–such as your back. Without the optimal level of oxygen from deep breathing and without natural body movement to keep the blood flowing, toxins get “stuck” within tight muscle tissue. If this is allowed to continue for a long enough period of time, a trigger point develops, causing pain.

Other types of tissue-based pain, such as pulled or strained tendons or ligaments, also can be caused by overuse. While a sudden trauma or injury can pull a ligament–a very extreme form of overuse–doing the same type of moderate-intensity activity too many times can strain a tendon or ligament, too. There is a fine line between using and overusing your tendons and ligaments.

Notice how similar types of sharp, shooting pain–a trigger point in the muscle, an inflamed tendon, or a compressed nerve–can be caused by entirely different reasons. As you’ll see in the next chapter, this is quite common. You also will see that if you don’t know what’s causing your pain, you could very easily choose the wrong treatment approach!

You may already have an idea which type of pain you have. If not, you’ll figure it out shortly with the information to come. For now, just remember that you need to know what’s causing the pain before you can reasonably expect to get rid of it.

Find out why you’re still in pain and what you can do about it in this video

Filed Under: 7 Day Back Pain Cure, Back Pain, Muscle Balance Therapy
Written By:
Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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11 thoughts on “Two Types of Pain”

  1. Avatar Bill Pomeroy says:

    Thank you for your interest and support. I do not spend a lot of time on the computer. I have fallen twice. Once I landed on the back of my neck and shoulder on the right side. One rib was pushed away from the spine on the left side. The second time I slipped going down the stairs and fell backwards on the stairs. Nothing has been broken but MRI’s show a lot of damage. I do a lot of twisting and stretching many times laying across my bed. my condition is livable, but the pain is always there sometimes more sometimes less

  2. Avatar Patricia Harris says:

    I am trying to get help for my daughter. She is 61 and has been told (MRI) that she has scolosis. Her spine is very crooked. One vertebra is out of place and was told she needs fusion L4 L5 to correct this. then she might need another surgery in a couple of years. She 25-30% pulled to one side. . Can’t carry anything heavy in her left arm because it pulls her forward. When this first happened we thought it was from repeative motion at work. One side to the other. Went to a chriopractor for over a year and my daughter kept telling him I think I have scolosis. He said No and kept on with treatments. Then her insurance ran out and he said. “I Think you have Scolosis” Daa. She is on disability and unable to work so I am trying to help her beause she is scared to have the surgery. I do have the 7 day back cure book, which I am still reading. but need to do something before she gets any worse. When I get done helping her then I need to take care of my neck problems. Sooo Jesse any help we can give will be greatly appreciated.
    We thank you so very much. Patricia Harris and Deborah Wade.

  3. Avatar Nsidibe Udokpan says:

    my son is twelve years six months and says the back pain feels like the spinal cord turns and twist. Is there specific exercise he can do to stop the lower back pain

  4. Avatar Admin says:


    Please do get yourself a copy of our free back pain book The 7 Day Back Pain Cure. It has a lot of information regarding the back, treatment options and pain relief plus many other useful aspects for you to read and consider. We do hope you find it helpful.

  5. Avatar Timothy Adamson says:

    Hi Jesse Cannone, i have down load your book and in the process of reading it, i will get back to you and let you know the results. Thank You

  6. Avatar Luwanna Delaney says:

    I have your book and to your question… 4 to 5 bulged herinated disc and sciatic nerve pain in buttlocks into my legs. right is like a tight band just below the knee area. I do not wish to have metal rods in my back. need your help and I did not finds what foods not to eat.

  7. Avatar Steve says:


    Thank you use letting us know you have our book and sorry to hear of your condition, that said, let me ask you, did you read the section on Muscle Balance Therapy and Muscle Imbalance, do you understand, our concept of looking for the root cause of your Herniated Disc?

    Please understand that it is your Herniated Disc that is causing your Sciatica, and that the feeling you are feeling, in your buttocks called Sciatica, is not a separate condition but a symptom of the Herniated Disc.

    And a Herniated Disc can be caused by many Issues, including trauma as well as many years of What we call Postural Dysfunctions, caused by Muscle Imbalances.

    And in order to to get relief from the sensation of Sciatica you will need to Identify and correct your postural dysfunctions and to correct your postural dysfunction you will need to correct your Muscle imbalances and we do that with our Muscle Balance Therapy Program, outlined in the book…

    Further, did you read and understand the specific Action Plan that is outlined for treating a Herniated Disc, in the book? If not that is a must read, as we lay out all of you options on how to address that condition.

    Please feel free to as me direct and specific questions relating to the book and your situation.

    HBI Support

  8. Avatar Richard Karnette says:

    I’d like to see discussion on treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis.

  9. Avatar Admin says:

    Hi Richard,

    With regard to your comment on lumbar spinal stenosis we thought you may find our book “7 Day Back Pain Cure” interesting and useful to read.

    It covers a range of topics from types and causes of pain, diet, back pain treatments, lifestyle changes that help with pain and action plans on many different types of back pain including Spinal Stenosis Action Plan.

    Please follow the link below for more detail and to get your free copy. We do hope you find it helpful.

    Thank you
    Admin (THBI)

  10. Avatar Nancy says:

    Hi I’m confused about back pain I had a muscle spasm last summer was very painful and doctors didnt want to sent me for a X-ray I finally found a place that gave me a X-ray they told me I have nothing than I brought my results to my family doctor he said i have degenative dics disease and very mild arithitis and a 5 percent curve in my back i went to my chriopracter and had a visits and I’ve been pain free completely it’s been 8 months I occionalluy get tight muscle in low back very Saldom so I don’t know if I belive I have what my doctor said

  11. Avatar steve says:

    Nancy, I can say one thing you are not alone, and what you have indicated is the very reason the Healthy Back Institute (HBI), was created… We understand it is confusing and frustrating and that is the very reason why we wrote the book on back pain from a root cause point of view, to help people make informed decisions about their backs when many different professional are saying different thing…

    So specific to your case, you should have been given, a report from the organization that took the xrays (in fact you can ask for a digital copy of the xrays so you can have them for latter reference , if you did not, I suggest you call them and request that you be given those copies, that said, their conclusion is only part of the story…

    In fact a diagnosis is the end result, and often time the end result does not tell you why that condition developed in the first place, so at the HBI we help people understand their condition from a root cause level so that your degenerative dics disease, mild arthritis and that 5 percent curve do not get worse over time… Please understand that just because you our out of pain now, does not mean that the same forces are not still at play slowly and progressively making your underlying condition worse… Which means that some day in the future you will have an other episode and next time it happens it will be come harder to get the relief you are looking for…

    We suggest to everyone, they get a copy of our book “The 7 Day Back Pain Cure”, its free we simple ask for a small S/H fee.

    Simply click on the link below to reserve your copy now…


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