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Chronic and Acute Pain: General Information and Treatment News

  • Synopsis : Information including the latest research news on treating human chronic and acute pain conditions.
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So What is Pain?

Pain is a feeling triggered in the nervous system. Pain may be sharp or dull. It may come and go, or it may be constant. Pain is mediated by specific nerve fibers that carry the pain impulses to the brain where their conscious appreciation may be modified by many factors. Pain can be helpful in diagnosing a problem. Without pain, you might seriously hurt yourself without knowing it, or you might not realize you have a medical problem that needs treatment. Once you take care of the problem, pain usually goes away. However, sometimes pain goes on for weeks, months or even years. This is called chronic pain. Sometimes chronic pain is due to an ongoing cause, such as cancer or arthritis.

The word suffering is sometimes used in the narrow sense of physical pain, but more often it refers to mental or emotional pain, or more often yet to pain in the broad sense, i.e. to any unpleasant feeling, emotion or sensation. The word pain usually refers to physical pain, but it is also a common synonym of suffering.

The words pain and suffering are often used both together in different ways. Or they may be used in 'contradistinction' to one another, as in "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional", or "pain is physical, suffering is mental". Or they may be used to define each other, as in "pain is physical suffering", or "suffering is severe physical or mental pain".

Pain Scale Level Chart - Click to ViewAbout This Image: Pain Scale Level Chart - Click to View Pain, in the sense of physical pain, is a typical sensory experience defined as the unpleasant awareness of a noxious stimulus or bodily harm. Individuals experience pain by various daily hurts and aches, and occasionally through more serious injuries or illnesses.

Pain is highly subjective to the individual experiencing it and is a major symptom in many medical conditions, significantly interfering with a person's quality of life and general functioning.

Typical descriptions of pain quality include sharp, stabbing, tearing, squeezing, cramping, burning, lancinating (electric-shock like), or heaviness. It may be experienced as throbbing, dull, nauseating, shooting or a combination of these.

Pain may range in intensity from slight through severe to agonizing and can appear as constant or intermittent.

Diagnosis is based on characterizing pain in various ways, according to duration, intensity, type (dull, burning or stabbing), source, or location in body. Usually pain stops without treatment or responds to simple measures such as resting or taking an analgesic, and it is then called 'acute' pain. But it may also become intractable and develop into a condition called chronic pain, in which pain is no longer considered a symptom but an illness by itself.

To establish an understanding of an individual's pain, health-care practitioners will typically try to establish certain characteristics of the pain: site, onset and offset, character, radiation, associated symptoms, time pattern, exacerbating and ameliorating factors and severity.

Medical management of pain has given rise to a distinction between acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is 'normal' pain, it is felt when hurting a toe, breaking a bone, having a toothache, or walking after an extensive surgical operation. Chronic pain is a 'pain illness', it is felt day after day, month after month, and seems impossible to heal.

Defining Types of Pain

  • Psychogenic Pain:

    Also called psychalgia or somatoform pain, is physical pain that is caused, increased, or prolonged by mental, emotional, or behavioral factors. Headache, back pain, or stomach pain are some of the most common types of psychogenic pain.

  • Phantom Pain:

    The sensation of pain from a limb or organ that has been lost or from which a person no longer receives physical signals. Phantom limb pain is an experience almost universally reported by amputees and quadriplegics. Phantom pain is a neuropathic pain.

  • Acute Pain:

    Pain that comes on quickly, can be severe, but lasts a relatively short time. As opposed to chronic pain. Acute pain serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body.

  • Chronic Pain:

    Defined as pain that persists longer than the temporal course of natural healing, associated with a particular type of injury or disease process. Chronic pain impairs the ability to direct attention, in particular when compared to peers with low intensity or no chronic pain, people with high-intensity chronic pain have significantly reduced ability to perform attention-demanding tasks.

Pain Facts - Did You Know?

  • The brain doesn't feel pain.
  • Chronic pain shrinks brains.
  • Scientist don't understand pain.
  • Pain is both physical and emotional.
  • Back pain is the most common pain condition.

Pain Statistics

  • A study of 4,703 patients found that 26% had pain in the last two years of life, increasing to 46% in the last month.
  • Pain is the main reason for visiting the emergency department in more than 50% of cases and is present in 30% of family practice visits.
  • Several epidemiological studies from different countries have reported widely varying prevalence rates for chronic pain, ranging from 12 to 80% of the population.
  • A survey of 6,636 children (0 to 18 years of age) found that, of the 5,424 respondents, 54% had experienced pain in the preceding three months. A quarter reported having experienced recurrent or continuous pain for three months or more, and a third of these reported frequent and intense pain. The intensity of chronic pain was higher for girls, and girls reports of chronic pain increased markedly between ages 12 and 14.
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