What Are the Causes of Unexplained Pain?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Pain is one of the hardest words to define. It may come with many sensation — aching, burning, tearing, stabbing — and in various degrees of severity, but one characteristic most anyone can agree on is that pain is uncomfortable. In many cases, one can at least make an informed guess at the source of a pain. The location of some types like joint pains, however, can make identification difficult. Further, many conditions cause a generalized kind of pain that may at first seem unidentifiable. Ailments that may cause unexplained pain include nerve dysfunction, an autoimmune disorder, nutrient deficiencies, and somatoform pain or other psychological sources.

Inflammatory diseases, particularly around the bones and joints, can cause swelling and irritation. Since these ailments occur inside the body, the pain may at first seem unexplainable. Such inflammation is often the result of a minor injury or an infection. The associated aches can spread along bones, making the source of the pain hard to locate, thus leading to seemingly unexplained pain.


Certain disorders like autoimmune diseases and cancer can also ravage delicate internal structures. In the former case, conditions such as lupus make it difficult for the body’s defensive white blood cells to differentiate between harmful substances and normal body tissues. As a result, the immune system actually attacks the body, which will likely result in pain. Cancerous cells have a similar damaging effect on healthy tissues, particularly as the disease spreads and invades various body areas. Anything from glands to blood vessels may be targeted in these serious conditions, and a whole set of complications are in turn created for the body, including unexplained pain.

Another major source of pain in the absence of an apparent cause is nerve malfunctioning. Nerve endings may misfire and cause subsequent tingling or burning sensations. These periodic discomforts may occur anywhere on the body and may worsen at night or via touch. Underlying conditions such as diabetes, celiac disease, and autoimmune disorders may lead to nerve damage. For some cases, exact causes of these conditions are unknown.

Depriving the body of essential nutrients can weaken various areas as well, leading to seemingly unexplained pain. Vitamin D deficiency, for example, may make bones brittle and more susceptible to wear and tear and associated pains. Other deficiencies may impact muscles and skin.

One of the body's most mysterious and busiest organs, the brain, is ultimately responsible for all pain, whether explained pain or unexplained pain. This organ sends and receives the signals that the body recognizes as pain. On occasion, the brain may send these signals by accident, although the exact reasoning for this response is largely a mystery. Fibromyalgia is one condition believed to be caused in part by sensitive pain receptors in the brain, and it is characterized by extreme fatigue and pain following applied pressure. In addition, certain psychological factors like stress and depression may alter brain chemistry and contribute to aches, pains, and generally feeling unwell.


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