Physiology of Pain

Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2017 Dec;29(4):397-406. doi: 10.1016/j.cnc.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Sep 23.


Acutely ill patients are challenging to frontline nurses because they frequently also have multiple chronic conditions. This article empowers all nurses to develop a foundational understanding of the physiology of acute and chronic pain. The skills, knowledge, and attitude to care for patients experiencing pain are a legal and ethical responsibility of all nurses. This article discusses the physiology of pain to include the neuronal receptors that respond to various painful stimuli, substances that stimulate nociceptors, the nerve pathways, modulation of the perception of pain, and acute verses chronic physiologic changes.

Keywords: Acute pain; Chronic pain; Neuropathic; Nociception; Physiology of pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Humans
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*