Visceral pain

Lancet. 1999 Jun 19;353(9170):2145-8. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(99)01306-9.


Visceral pain is the most common form of pain produced by disease and one of the most frequent reasons why patients seek medical attention. Yet much of what we know about the mechanisms of pain derives from experimental studies of somatic not visceral nociception. The conventional view is that visceral pain is simply a variant of somatic pain, a view based on the belief that a single neurological mechanism is responsible for all pain. However, the more we learn about the mechanisms of somatic and visceral pain, the more we realise that although these two processes have much in common, they also have important differences. Although visceral pain is an important part of the normal sensory repertoire of all human beings and a prominent symptom of many clinical conditions, not much clinical research has been done in this field and there are few clinical scientists with expertise in the management of visceral pain. Instead, visceral pain is usually treated by a range of specialists who take quite different approaches to the management of this type of pain. Thus, the management of visceral pain is frequently unsatisfactory. In this review, we consider visceral pain as a separate form of pain and examine its distinct sensory properties from a clinical perspective. We describe recent research findings that may change the way we think about visceral pain and, more importantly, may help develop new procedures for its management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Viscera / innervation*
  • Visceral Afferents / physiology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents