Pain is a complex unpleasant sensory perception (feeling) triggered by your nervous system, that so happens to differ dramatically among individuals. There is no way to tell how much pain you are in and no test can measure its intensity.
Pain can be felt as sharp or dull, may come and go, or may be constant. You may feel pain in one area or you may feel it all over.
Pain is useful, for without it, you might unknowingly hurt yourself or not be forewarned of a health issue that needs attention. And your warning may come to you in the form of acute or chronic.
Acute pain essentially results from disease, inflammation or tissue injury. This type of pain usually arrives suddenly and goes away after its cause is healed, by treatment or otherwise.
Chronic pain persists over a long period and is very resistant to many treatments. Not to mention environmental and psychological factors can make it much worse.
There are a vast array of causes for pain, but here are some of the more common:
- Arthritis ~ conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout characterized by joint pain in the extremities, other inflammatory diseases affecting soft tissues include tendinitis and bursitis.
- Back pain ~ degenerated disk, ruptured disc, treatment for a damaged disc include painkillers, muscle relaxants, exercise, rest, adequate support or surgery.
- Burn pain ~ profound and excruciating, with first-degree the least severe to third-degree skin loss.
- Cancer pain ~ most of this pain can be treated to minimize discomfort.
- Headaches ~ migraines, cluster and tension.
- Head and facial pain ~ dental problems, cranial neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia characterized by a stabbing, shooting pain.
- Muscle pain ~ aching muscle, spasm, strain or severe spasticity, with many causes such as paralysis, fibromyalgia, infection, autoimmune dysfunction, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Myofascial pain syndromes ~ affects sensitive trigger point areas, located within the body’s muscles, fibromyalgia being one type.
- Neuropathic pain ~ nerve injury commonly described as a hot, burning sensation, which can result from diseases that affect nerves (diabetes), trauma, chemotherapy drugs, surgical removal of a limb, outbreak of shingles or brain/spinal cord injury.
- Repetitive stress injuries ~ muscular conditions that result from repeated motions such as writer’s cramp, carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis.
- Sciatica ~ painful condition caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, the main nerve that branches off the spinal cord and continues down into the thigh, leg, ankle, and foot, and is characterized by pain, which can be caused by a herniated disc, exertion, obesity and poor posture.
- Shingles and other painful disorders ~ affect the skin, like rashes, herpes simplex, skin tumors or cysts.
- Sports injuries ~ sprains, strains, bruises, dislocations, and fractures.
- Spinal stenosis ~ narrowing of the canal surrounding the spinal cord which occurs naturally with age and causes weakness and leg pain, usually felt while standing and relieved by sitting.
- Trauma ~ occurs after an injury.
- Vascular disease or injury ~ blood vessel and nerve interruptions caused by vasculitis, coronary artery disease, and circulatory problems.
The goal of pain treatment is management to improve function for your daily activities. There are a number of options for relief of pain, some more effective than others. No matter your treatment regime, pain is treatable. Among the most common are:
- Acetaminophen ~sold over the counter, by prescription, sometimes in combination with codeine.
- Acupuncture ~ involves needle application to precise body points.
- Analgesic ~ aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.
- Anticonvulsants ~ sometimes prescribed for the treatment of pain.
- Antidepressants ~ sometimes used for pain treatment, usually analgesics are tried first.
- Antimigraine ~ triptans- sumatriptan and zolmitriptan are used specifically for migraine headaches, and they can have serious side effects.
- Aspirin~ most widely used pain relief for fever, headache and muscle soreness.
- Biofeedback ~ used most notably for headache and back pain.
- Capsaicin ~ chemical in chili peppers and primary ingredient in pain relieving creams.
- Chemonucleolysis ~ chymopapain enzyme is injected directly into a herniated lumbar disc in an effort to dissolve material around the disc, thus reducing pressure and pain.
- Chiropractic ~ hand manipulation of the spine, usually for relief of back pain.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy ~ coping skills and relaxation methods to help prepare for and cope with pain.
- Counseling ~ can give support and helps to learn about the physiological changes produced by pain.
- COX-2 inhibitors ~ may be effective for arthritis.
- Electrical stimulation ~ implanted electric nerve stimulation.
- Exercise ~ overall sense of well-being by improving blood and oxygen flow to muscles, and helps with pain.
- Hypnosis ~ used to control physical response to the amount of pain withstood.
- Ibuprofen ~ nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
- Low-power lasers ~ occasionally used by physical therapists and not without controversy.
- Magnets ~ popular with athletes who swear by their effectiveness and proponents argue they may affect cell or body chemistry for producing pain relief.
- Narcotic/Opioids ~ codeine and morphine, induce sedation as well as pain relief.
- Nerve blocks ~ drugs, chemical agents or surgical techniques that interrupt pain message relay between specific areas and brain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ~ work by reducing inflammatory responses in tissues, includes aspirin and ibuprofen.
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation ~ uses physical techniques and methods, such as heat, cold, exercise, massage and manipulation to increase function, control pain, and speed recovery.
- Neuromodulation ~ energy healing via nerve stimulation.
It is widely believed that pain affects men and women differently, and women seem to recover more quickly. Experiments with estrogen and testosterone appear to lower or elevate pain tolerance, respectively.
Also, women seek help more quickly for their pain and are less likely to allow pain to control their lives.
Healthy diet, regular exercise and positive attitude will take you miles in pain relief and prevention.