Dull pain can be attributed to many sources and appear anywhere on the body. It’s usually described as a steady and bearable type of pain.

Learning to accurately describe different types of pain can help your doctor diagnose the cause of your pain and determine appropriate treatment.

Pain is defined as a negative signal to your nervous system. It’s an unpleasant feeling and can be described with various modifiers. Your pain can be located in one place or felt in multiple areas of your body.

When you pinch yourself, your nerves send a signal to your brain that the contact is causing slight damage to your skin. This is the feeling of pain.

There are two basic kinds of pain:

  • Chronic pain. Chronic pain is a feeling of discomfort that lasts for a long time. It can be caused by severe and lasting problems.
  • Acute pain. Acute pain comes on suddenly and is usually caused by a sudden injury, disease or illness. Acute pain can usually be mitigated or treated.

Dull and sharp are descriptions for the type and quality of pain.

Dull pain

Dull pain is usually used to describe chronic or persistent pain. This is a deep ache felt in an area, but typically doesn’t stop you from daily activities. Examples of dull pain may be a:

  • slight headache
  • sore muscle
  • bruised bone

Sharp pain

Sharp pain is harsher and may make you suck in your breath when it occurs. It’s generally more localized in a specific place. Examples of sharp pain include:

  • paper cuts
  • ankle sprains
  • tweaks in your back
  • muscle tears

There are different categories used when describing or attempting to gather information about pain. These include:

  • location: where the pain is felt
  • intensity: how severe the pain is
  • frequency: how often the pain occurs
  • quality: the type of pain
  • duration: how long the pain lasts when it occurs
  • pattern: what causes the pain and what improves it

The category that’s most difficult to describe is the quality of the pain. Some words that may help you describe your pain include:

  • stabbing
  • dull
  • sharp
  • nagging
  • shooting
  • throbbing
  • stabbing
  • gnawing
  • hot
  • burning
  • tender

Consider documenting your pain as it occurs. When you visit your doctor, your report can track any changes and see how your pain has been affecting your daily activities.

If your pain worsens, talk about it with your doctor. If your dull pain is a result of a previous known injury such as an ankle twist, bruise, or another condition, monitor it for changes.

If your pain isn’t due to a known injury and lasts more than two to three weeks, bring it up to your doctor. If you’re feeling dull pain deep in your bones, you may be suffering from a serious condition, such as arthritis or bone cancer.

Your doctor will ask you questions about your pain. Keeping a pain diary may help you describe your pain to your doctor.

Dull pain is often chronic, lasting a few days, months, or more. The pain is typically sharp, but can be a cause of concern. Commonly, dull pain is the result of an old injury or a chronic condition.

If you have a dull pain that’s new and it doesn’t improve in two to three weeks, bring it to your doctor’s attention. It might indicate a need for testing that could lead to specific treatment, including pain relief.