Abdominal pain is traditionally divided into three categories: visceral, parietal, and referred. In general, the visceral (autonomic) and parietal (somatic) types are considered the two basic "causes" of abdominal pain. Referred pain can be considered separately as a cortical misperception of either visceral or parietal afferent stimuli. Although each type of pain is thought to have a different neuropathophysiology, the categories are not entirely discrete. For example, visceral pain often blends with parietal pain as a pathologic process evolves. Their shortcomings notwithstanding, these distinctions are clinically useful ways of thinking about abdominal pain.
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