What is dull pain and sharp pain?

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    These are two qualities of pain. Do not confuse this with intensity of pain. Using a pain scale, you can have a 5/10 dull pain and a 5/10 sharp pain. The type/quality of pain helps a diagnostician to better determine the cause of the pain. A dull pain is usually less concerning to a patient than a sharp pain. Dull pains typically are more wide spread (diffuse) and hard to pinpoint. They often are longer-lasting per episode as well and associated with more chronic-type injury such as tendonitis, bursitis, etc.. A sharp pain is usually easier to pinpoint. They travel more quickly as they are delivered through faster-conducting nerves. They are usually quick, pin-pointed and short-lived. They are more suggestive of an acute-type injury such as appendicitis, sprain, etc.

    This is a layman answer, but if necessary I could go more into the physiology and anatomy of pain.

    Dull pain is a nagging pain that doesn’t stop people from normal activities, but is noticeable throughout the day. Find out where dull pain is on the pain scale with information from a wellness consultant in this free video on chronic pain.

    Ouch! A sudden sharp pain in your back can stop you in your tracks. Unlike the dull ache of sitting too long at a computer or the gradual neck stiffness from too much driving, the cause of a sudden sharp pain in your back (also known as acute back pain) is not always obvious.

    Pain along the path of the nerve that is sharp or stabbing, in the same location each episode, comes and goes (intermittent) or is constant and burning, and may get worse when the area is moved. Weakness or complete paralysis of muscles supplied by the same nerve.

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    Think about the words dull and sharp. The kinds of pain using those words as descriptors are closely related.

    If a sharpened stick was poking you anywhere on the body, it would produce a sharp pain, a pain in a sharply defined area that intensifies with pressure.

    Similarly, if a stick with a dull end were poking anywhere on the body with enough pressure, the result would be a dull pain, a pain spread more diffusely over an area than is the case with a sharp pain.

    However, many things other than being poked with sticks cause pain, and consequently, a sharp pain may cover a large area of the body, and dull pain may have a very limited in extent. The terms sharp and dull in relation to pain are not precise terms, but metaphorical terms, pointing to the kinds of objects, sharp and dull, that typically cause those qualities in pain.

    Sharp pain can take your breath away like getting stabbed with a knife alternatively called shooting pain like acute biliary spasm or the feeling like bamboo shoots are being forced under your toenails in pedal neuropathies. This acute pain may come in waves like that of a moving kidney stone.

    Dull pain is more diffuse like having to fart. It is annoying but you can prattle through your activities of daily living and your body isn’t saying “If you don’t take care of this right away I might die!”

    Being able to describe the quality, location, onset and alleviating or exacerbating factors of pain an help a diagnostician form an accurate clinical impression.

    This is a difficult question. Reason being that generally, pain is a subjective experience. Everyone has their own feeling. There is no reliable quantitative measure of pain, but we must have some method of measure in order to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of those who are ill or wounded. That said, I will attempt a short answer. Sharp pain is a stabbing pain, a pinpoint localized pain, imagination a knife in your leg kind of pain. Dull pain could be a throbbing pain, for example. Pain that is more disbursed, or just not a stabbing kind of pain. Then the next question would be to rate the pain from one to ten. This question also gets an answer that is based on the patient’s own idea of scale. Not a very reliable way to delve into a good diagnosis but it’s the best we can do for now.

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    I’ve had extensive experience with both types.

    Dull: can be mild “tendonitis, elbow pain” or intermittent knee pain, Osteoarthritis, or it could be a muscle pain on and off. Any number of things.

    Sharp pain: stabbing pain in your gut akin to Gall bladder inflamation, heart pain, appendicitis. And because I’ve also had a blood clot in my lower left lung for 2 weeks and didn’t know it, it can cause you painful breathing episodes and literally like a choking if you’re having a heart attack. They really didn’t know what was going with me. Many tests.

    Hope that helps define both.


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    Dull pain is tolerable to a certain point. It’s like a spread out pain, like being sore in your legs after a run, or after you get your braces on, it’s a continuous pain but it’s more of an ache.

    Sharp pain is less tolerable. By a lot. Like if someone sticks a needle into you or having a piece of glass stuck in your foot. It’s pretty short but it hurts a lot.

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    Studies have shown that people find pain very difficult to define and doctors often mistake what the patient is saying rather than how they’re feeling.

    Clinically Dull Pain can be best described as an ache, a painful nagging feeling that feel steadily the same throughout the day. Sharp Pain is typically described as sudden, a jolt or stabbing pain.

    Hope that helps!

    The way I use these terms is to try to describe where the pain is.

    If I say “There’s a sharp pain in my side.” that means there is a pinpoint like pain concentrated to a small area.

    A dull pain is more like a back ache. It’s there, you can feel it, you know it’s there, it’s not enough to stop the world from turning but you just can’t ignore it.

    Until next time ♥︎


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    A sharp pain is when you are able to pin point the pain.

    A dull pain is kind of dispersed and diffuse.

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