This review selectively explores some areas of pain research that, until recently, have been poorly understood. We have chosen four topics that relate to clinical pain and we discuss the underlying mechanisms and related pathophysiologies contributing to these pain states. A key issue in pain medicine involves crucial events and mediators that contribute to normal and abnormal pain signaling, but remain unseen without genetic, biomarker or imaging analysis. Here we consider how the altered genetic make-up of familial pains reveals the human importance of channels discovered by preclinical research, followed by the contribution of receptors as stimulus transducers in cold sensing and cold pain. Finally we review recent data on the neuro-immune interactions in chronic pain and the potential targets for treatment in cancer-induced bone pain.