Visceral pain refers to pain in the trunk area of the body that includes the heart, lungs, abdominal and pelvic organs. Examples of visceral pain include: appendicitis, gallstones, chronic chest pain diverticulitis and pelvic pain. Up to 25% of the population report visceral pain.
In 2012-2013 the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) held the Global Year Against Visceral Pain to highlight awareness of this type of pain and to develop fact sheets in many different languages for the international clinical community.
Visceral pain is caused by inflammation, ischemia (restriction of blood supply to tissues), mesenteric stretching (mesentery is a membranous fold attaching an organ to the body wall; it contains blood vessels that supply the intestine), or dilation or spasm of hollow viscera (viscera=organs).
Visceral pain is diffuse and difficult to localize. It may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, changes in vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, temperature), and emotional manifestations. It is often described as sickening, deep, squeezing and dull. It is usually perceived somewhere in the midline (from lower abdomen to the chest).
Visceral pain is due to structural lesions, biochemical abnormalities, or functional disorders.
Two major functional disorders of the gut are: functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.
Treatment of visceral pain is causal (identifying and treating the cause of the pain) and symptomatic.
Symptomatic treatment relies on use of medications such as analgesics (pain killers), spasmolytics, antidepressants. In some cases invasive therapy may be used, such as nerve blocks, neurostimulation, pulsed radiofrequency ablation etc.