According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” A definition this vague is necessary, as pain is wholly subjective. The IASP also states that pain is “unquestionably a sensation in a part or parts of the body, but it is also always unpleasant and therefore also an emotional experience.”
Pain is not always the result of physical trauma and can be experienced even if an individual isn’t capable of verbally describing the sensation. Research shows that in addition to the physical causes of pain, a variety of factors contribute to its existence, including biochemical and psychophysiological changes in your body, your situation at work, relationships with family and friends, dietary habits, daily activities, stress levels, and even cultural background. There is no one way to experience pain, and likewise, no one way to treat pain.
Pain and the Body
In cases of injury or illness, pain is a mechanism used by the body to promote healing. Pain can be acute or chronic (short-term or long-term) and needs to be carefully observed from the onset in order to minimize the likelihood of lingering. Acute and chronic pain can be experienced simultaneously as well. Though these terms help to characterize pain, they exist on a continuum, and the experience of pain varies from person to person.
Acute pain arises usually from a sudden injury, and only lasts for a brief period of time. When the physical injury is healed, acute pain should cease. Bone fractures, cuts, or sunburn are some examples of injuries that cause acute pain. These can usually be managed through rest and medication. But when pain persists after injuries heal or arises despite no discernible injury, it encroaches into the realm of chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than six months and can be the sign of an underlying condition that needs specialized, long-term care.
Pain can also be characterized by its causes. For example, nociceptive pain is defined by IASP as “Pain that arises from actual or threatened damage to non-neural tissue and is due to the activation of nociceptors.” In contrast, neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the neural tissue of the nervous system, though sometimes this damage won’t be observable. In the case of chronic pain, the mechanisms are often unknown.
While acute pain is a sign from the body that an injury has occurred, chronic pain that persists in cases like arthritis of fibromyalgia has no protective benefit to the individual experiencing it. This sort of pain can be incredibly frustrating and will often lead to time off from work, depression, and difficulty sleeping. More than 116 million Americans live in chronic, debilitating pain. Many have endured years of agony and have undergone two or more failed surgeries seeking pain relief. In addition, 50 million Americans are partially or completely disabled. It is clear that something needs to change.
Despite the physical and financial toll, millions of people prolong their suffering needlessly, unaware of effective pain management options. A program that focuses on a person’s biomedical, physical, biochemical, psychological, social, occupational, and behavioral well-being is the key to successful pain recovery. The Global Pain Institute’s Programs for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue are designed to help improve function and reduce and/or eliminate pain and suffering, while helping patients regain a sense of control and well-being. For more information on this proven, innovative approach to chronic pain treatment, call this number: (858) 465-6194