Understanding Pain


 

Many of us have experienced pain in some degree throughout the course of our lives. We may understand what pain can feel like, but it can still be difficult to fully define. A good definition of pain is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage."

While most definitions give the scientific description of pain, the emotional and physical effects can be difficult to describe, as they vary from person to person. The following sections are available to help you better understand pain so that you can seek proper treatment from your pain specialist.
 
Our team of professionals and staff believe that informed patients are better equipped to make decisions regarding their health and well-being. For your personal use, we have created an extensive patient library covering an array of educational topics, which can be found on the side of each page. Browse through these diagnoses and treatments to learn more about topics of interest to you.

As always, you can contact our office to answer any questions or concerns.


What is the impact of pain?

Today, pain is one of the most common reasons Americans seek medical treatment, with back pain as the leading reason. An estimated 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 visit their doctor because they are experiencing frequent back pain. Other common painful conditions include:

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Knee pain
  • Hip pain
  • Neck pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Jaw and lower facial pain

Since a person can be in severe pain without any visible marks or injury, family members and others close to the person in pain may not understand what is happening. By visiting your pain specialist, you can find relief from your acute or chronic pain so that you can live a normal lifestyle once again.


What are the causes of pain?

When you experience pain, it is your body’s natural response to actual or potential damage. In other words, your body is protecting you—even when it might feel like it isn’t. The feeling of pain is triggered when special nerve endings, called pain receptors, cause electrical signals to be sent to the brain through the spinal cord. The brain then recognizes these electrical signals as “pain."

If you are feeling pain, it can be experienced through two categories: Acute and Chronic. With both categories of pain, the pain experienced can be mild, moderate or severe.

Acute and Chronic Pain

Acute pain refers to pain that occurs immediately after an injury and lasts no longer than two months when treated properly. On the other hand, chronic pain is any type of pain that lasts six months or longer. Chronic pain can be difficult to treat because:

  • The source or cause can be hard to determine
  • Pain varies from one person to the next
  • People with the same kind of chronic pain may need different treatments


What are the different types of pain?

When describing pain, the types will fall into three categories: Nociceptive Pain, Neuropathic Pain and Mixed Pain. Depending on the type of pain you are experiencing, your pain specialist will be able to create an appropriate treatment plan for relieving your pain and restoring your normal lifestyle.

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain (Nerve Pain) occurs as a result of structural damage and/or dysfunction within the nervous system. Since neuropathic pain often presents in widespread dysfunction throughout the body, the initial cause of the pain is often difficult to track. An example of neuropathic pain is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).

Nociceptive Pain

Nociceptive pain arises from the stimulation of specific pain receptors. These receptors, called nociceptors, can respond to heat, cold, vibration, stretching and chemical stimuli released when tissues are irritated or injured. Some examples of Nociceptive pain include:

  • Sprains
  • Inflammation
  • Obstructions
  • Bone fractures
  • Myofacial pain
  • Burns, bumps and bruises
  • Pelvic pain caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

Mixed Pain

In some conditions, pain appears to be caused by a mixture of nociceptive and neuropathic factors. An initial nervous system dysfunction or injury may trigger the release of inflammatory mediators, resulting in a subsequent neuropathic inflammation, causing the quality of pain to change to burning, throbbing or tingling type of pain. Examples of mixed pain include migraine headaches and myofacial pain.

Our team of professionals and staff believe that informed patients are better equipped to make decisions regarding their health and well-being. For your personal use, we have created an extensive patient library covering an array of educational topics, which can be found on the side of each page. Browse through these diagnoses and treatments to learn more about topics of interest to you.

As always, you can contact our office to answer any questions or concerns.

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