When to consider "mixed pain"? The right questions can make a difference!

Curr Med Res Opin. 2020 Dec;36(12):2037-2046. doi: 10.1080/03007995.2020.1832058. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


The term "mixed pain" is increasingly applied for specific clinical scenarios, such as low back pain, cancer pain and postsurgical pain, in which there "is a complex overlap of the different known pain types (nociceptive, neuropathic, nociplastic) in any combination, acting simultaneously and/or concurrently to cause pain in the same body area." Whether mixed pain is the manifestation of neuropathic and nociceptive mechanisms operating simultaneously or concurrently, or the result of an entirely independent pathophysiological mechanism - distinct from nociceptive, nociplastic and neuropathic pain - is currently unknown. At present, the diagnosis of mixed pain is made based on clinical judgement following detailed history-taking and thorough physical examination, rather than by formal confirmation following explicit screening or diagnostic criteria; this lack of formalized screening or diagnostic tools for mixed pain is problematic for physicians in primary care, who encounter patients with probable mixed pain states in their daily practice. This article outlines a methodical approach to clinical evaluation of patients presenting with acute, subacute or chronic pain, and to possibly identifying those who have mixed pain. The authors propose the use of nine simple key questions, which will provide the practicing clinician a framework for identifying the predominant pain mechanisms operating within the patient. A methodical, fairly rapid, and comprehensive assessment of a patient in chronic pain - particularly one suffering from pain with both nociceptive and neuropathic components - allows validation of their experience of chronic pain as a specific disease and, importantly, allows the institution of targeted treatment.

Keywords: painDETECT; Mixed pain; acute pain; chronic pain; diagnosis; neuropathic pain; nociceptive pain; nociplastic pain; pain assessment; pain management.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Pain / diagnosis
  • Chronic Pain / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Neuralgia / diagnosis
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic