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Defining Excruciating Pain: Explanations and Common Factors
CBD Topical
Pain Management


Defining Excruciating Pain: Explanations and Common Factors

We all experience pain to some degree or another, and usually, the pain we feel is fleeting and relatively minor.

However, there are other times when the pain reaches a level where we cannot function normally until the pain is addressed or alleviated. If you’ve ever had a severe migraine or broken a bone, you probably remember experiencing excruciating pain at some point in the process. Read on as we dive into the details of excruciating pain, including common causes.

What Is Different About Excruciating Pain?

When we experience pain that is more severe than what we might be used to, we can call it excruciating pain. Often, this level of pain can be debilitating, which means it can affect basic life functions and daily activities.

As opposed to conventional aches and pains that may be manageable, excruciating pain can make it difficult to get out of bed, let alone complete your everyday routines and go to work or school.

What Are Some Common Causes of Excruciating Pain?

If you’re experiencing excruciating, debilitating pain that affects even simple tasks like doing the dishes, laundry, or just going to the grocery store, there could be a variety of potential causes.

Spinal Problems

Because the spine controls much of the motor function of the body, damage to it can cause horrible, excruciating pain.

Often, lower back problems will also affect the legs and feet, while problems closer to the neck tend to affect the arms and hands. Spinal pain is commonly the result of an injury to the discs in the back:

  • Slipped, Herniated, or Ruptured Disc: If there’s damage to one of the discs in the spinal cord, this can put pressure on the nerves surrounding the spine and cause excruciating pain or even paralysis, depending on the severity.
  • Sciatica: The sciatic nerve is very long, and if there’s pressure on it, it can cause the legs and feet to experience immense pain and even restrict mobility and movement.

Problems resulting from an injury to the spine may require surgery, physical therapy, and pain medicine as treatment methods.

Autoimmune Disorders

An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body can’t tell the difference between its own cells and foreign cells, thus causing it to attack itself.

The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is not known, but it is likely that many different factors are at play. Genetics, environmental triggers, and certain viruses or bacteria may contribute to the development of an autoimmune disease.

Some examples of autoimmune diseases include:

  • Lupus: Lupus results from the body attacking its own immune system. This condition sometimes leads to a facial rash and commonly causes joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog due to inflammation.
  • Type 1 Diabetes: In cases of type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. This can lead to neuropathic pain in the hands and feet.
  • Celiac Disease: Celiac disease can affect multiple systems of the body, but is mostly felt in the digestive system. People with celiac disease experience digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting when they eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
  • Multiple Sclerosis: This autoimmune disease affects the nervous system, causing pain and difficulty using muscles. Because it’s progressive, it can worsen over time and lead to more pain and restriction in movement.
  • Crohn's Disease: Like celiac disease, symptoms of Crohn’s disease are usually felt in the stomach. This autoimmune disease affects the intestines and disrupts the proper digestion of food, leading to bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain. It can lead to long-term damage to the colon and intestinal tract, which in turn can cause more excruciating pain.


Arthritis is characterized by pain, swelling, and tenderness in the joints. There are a number of different types of arthritis, some of which are autoimmune, like rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis is progressive, meaning it can get worse over time and with activity. Arthritis can be extremely painful, and it can be difficult to find effective, and lasting, relief from symptoms.


A complex type of arthritis, gout entails inflammation that leads to pain and swelling in the joints, with the big toes being one of the most commonly affected areas.

Gout can come on very suddenly and be exceedingly painful. Those dealing with gout may go through phases where it isn’t terrible but then flares up suddenly. These flare-ups can be excruciating experiences.


There isn’t much known about fibromyalgia yet, except that it’s very painful. Fibromyalgia is sometimes confused with small fiber peripheral neuropathy, but either way, it affects the nerves of the body, especially in the hands and feet. Fibromyalgia usually feels like stinging, stabbing, or extremely hot or cold in the extremities.

This condition often causes tingling or complete numbness in some parts, or all, of the feet and hands.

Cluster Headaches and Migraines

Everyone will experience a headache at one time or another, but cluster and migraine headaches can be excruciatingly painful experiences.

It isn’t always easy to determine the source of a bad headache, but often, environmental factors like a drastic change in the weather may be the culprit. Other times, certain foods, like MSG or soy, can trigger an excruciating headache that may be felt for hours or even days.

What Are the Main Types of Pain?

There are many different types of pain we may experience throughout our lives. Some types of pain have a clearcut cause, whereas others may be harder to pin down. If you break a bone or sustain a similar injury, the source of the pain is usually obvious.

However, if you are dealing with lower back pain but can’t trace it to a specific injury, it might be much harder to figure out the source of your pain. Learning about the different types of pain can help you work on finding where your pain might be coming from, especially if it’s excruciating and interfering with your daily life.

Nociceptive Pain

Because pain is generally associated with the nociceptors of our body (the nerves that tell our bodies that something is wrong), many forms of pain are considered “nociceptive pain.” There are two main types of nociceptive pain:

  • Somatic Pain: This pain affects the tissue in our body and is what we’re experiencing when we get a physical injury. This is what we might feel when we have soreness after going for a run or throwing a baseball around.
  • Visceral Pain: Visceral pain occurs when the nociceptors are being stimulated deeper in the body. Endometriosis, menstrual cramps, and stomach pain are examples of visceral pain.

Either somatic or visceral pain can be excruciating, depending on the level and severity. For example, breaking your leg can certainly be severely painful — and if you have an autoimmune disorder like lupus or celiac disease, the pain can be equally excruciating, just in a different way.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain

Pain can also be either acute or chronic. Again, either one of these types of pain can be excruciating depending on how severe it is, but they differ slightly in how and when they are felt.

  • Acute: This pain is often associated with injury. It improves over time as the body heals, and is stabbing and sharp. Acute pain usually worsens with movement and activity.
  • Chronic: This pain is long-term, and tends to go on for months, years, or even decades. It may be worse with activity, but it also may come and go seemingly without reason.

One way to understand the difference between acute and chronic pain is to think about having surgery. For example, if you undergo an operation, the pain you experience right after the surgery is acute. You might have pain at the incision site that will feel uncomfortable for a while, but will improve over time as you heal.

On the other hand, any pain that you experience over the months and years following a procedure can be due to scar tissue, and this is a form of chronic pain.

Neuropathic Pain

One of the most difficult types of pain to deal with is neuropathic pain, because it has to do with our nervous system being damaged and disrupting our pain signals.

Neuropathic pain can be tough to track and trace because our pain sensors are not working how they are supposed to when we have nerve damage.

How Does Excruciating Pain Impact Mental Health?

In addition to the effect of excruciating pain on the body, it can also have a tremendous effect on mental health. Long days, weeks, months, and years of pain can wear down the spirit, causing strain on our outlooks and leading to anxiety or depression.

An important reason for dealing with excruciating pain is so that you can keep your mind sharp and clear instead of being clouded with the fog of pain. A life with less pain could mean a life that’s not only more bearable but also more enjoyable!

The search for relief from debilitating pain can often be long and expensive. Every year millions of dollars are spent on doctor’s visits, medications, supplements, and on lifestyle changes in pain management.

While severe pain is difficult no matter what, many are finding ways to lessen their pain through less invasive treatments like chiropractic care or acupuncture.

The Bottom Line

Excruciating pain can take a toll on your physical and mental wellness, and can interfere with your ability to complete daily tasks.

From injuries to illnesses and autoimmune disorders, excruciating pain can be caused by a variety of factors — and finding the culprit is a powerful step towards finding relief.


Gout - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Cluster headache | MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.

Chronic Pain and Mental Health Often Interconnected |

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