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What Is Visceral Pain? - Definition, Referral Patterns & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Have you ever had a tummy ache? That might've been due to visceral pain. Learn what that is, how it may trick you, and how it can be treated in various instances.

What is Visceral Pain?

Have you ever had a stomach ache? Did you ever seem to have a sharp pain in your mid to lower back? When you had to pee really bad, did your bladder hurt as its walls stretched like an inflated balloon?

Those could've all been signs of visceral pain. Visceral pain refers to pain coming from the viscera, the internal organs found in the abdominal, thoracic (chest), and pelvic cavities.

Although technically viscera does include the organs of the chest and pelvic cavity, it is often used to refer to the organs in the abdominal cavity (especially the stomach and intestines).

The visceral organs
Visceral Organs

Referred Pain

When you have to pee really bad, you may identify a dull or even sharp pain coming from the area where your bladder is in your body. However, in some instances, pain is found in a place other than where it originates. This is known as referred pain.

One example is pain at the tip of the shoulder as a result of pain in the diaphragm, the big muscle that helps you breathe and separates the chest and abdominal cavities. Similarly, gallbladder problems can cause right shoulder pain.

If you are a man and have pain in the testicles, it may be a result of an issue coming from the ureter, the structure that connects a kidney to the bladder. The ureter moves urine produced by the kidneys and into the bladder. Ureteral stones, for example, may refer pain to outside areas in this way.

A famous example of referred pain is during a heart attack, the inner part of the left arm feels pain. However, pain coming from the heart may also feel like it's in a person's neck, stomach, or even the right arm.

Treatment of Visceral Pain

Visceral pain is first and foremost treated by addressing the underlying cause. Let's cover some examples.

  • Let's say you have visceral pain as a result of appendicitis, the inflammation of the appendix. Surgical removal of the appendix would be the main treatment approach to dealing with the pain.
  • If you have pain as a result of gallstones, which are stones in the gallbladder, then their surgical removal would be necessary to prevent any further pain.
  • Pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas, may be treated with fasting and fluids administered through the vein. Surgery may also need to be employed in some cases
  • If you have pain in the esophagus or stomach as a result of the irritating effects of stomach acid, you may be given antacids, which are drugs that neutralize stomach acid, or drugs that minimize stomach acid production.

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