Difference Between Somatic and Visceral Pain
By Marc Gordon - September 16, 2022

When body tissues are damaged or inflamed, sensory receptors known as Nociceptor nerves detect the signals produced and transmit an impulse up the spinal cord from the damaged site. It then travels to the brain for interpretation and response. Nociceptors are ‘pain receptors so that the brain can respond accordingly. However, nociceptive pain is categorized into two types. Somatic and visceral pain does not feel the same, even though they are perceived similarly.

Table Summary

Somatic PainVisceral Pain
Affects superficial body parts such as the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose as well as the skin, joints, bones and muscles.Affects the internal organs and blood vessels
Can invade nerve roots, leading to neuropathic pain.Doesn’t cause neuropathic pain
Pain is usually sharp and intense.Pain is usually dull, cramping and or stabbing.


Somatic pain (sometimes referred to as musculoskeletal pain) is pain that is detected by nerves in the muscles, bones, and soft tissues. When damage occurs near the skin or mucous membranes, where nociceptors are plentiful, it feels sharp and intense. It might feel dull, hurting, or even extend to other body regions when it includes your muscles or bones. Somatic pain, while usually more acute, usually goes away as the injury heals. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and tension headaches are examples of disorders that cause bodily pain.

Visceral pain is “internal pain.” This type of pain is caused by damage to internal organs or blood vessels which do not have sufficient pain receptors. It can also be due to muscle spasms, indigestion, infections, some cancers, and specific biological functions. Visceral pain, like deep somatic pain, can be sensed as a dull ache and diffuse to other regions of the body, making it difficult to diagnose or locate. Psychological disturbances such as anxiety and depression can also intensify visceral pain. Menstrual cramps and gastrointestinal diseases such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are common conditions with visceral pain.

Somatic Pain VS Visceral Pain

While somatic pain is detected by nerves in the muscles, bones and soft tissues, visceral pain is caused by damage to internal organs and blood vessels. While somatic pain usually goes away when the injury heals, visceral pain is difficult to diagnose or even locate.