Written by eHealth Navigator

What is Pain?

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.

•  Chronic pain persists beyond acute pain or beyond the expected time for an injury to heal.
•  Chronic pain disorders affect millions of Americans and can be a major cause of work absenteeism, underemployment and unemployment.

What is chronic pain?

There are two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain doesn't last long and usually goes away as your body heals. Chronic pain lasts at least 3 months after your body has healed.  An estimated 85 million Americans live with chronic pain.  Sometimes, people who have chronic pain don't know what is causing it. Along with discomfort, chronic pain can cause low self-esteem, depression and anger. It can also interfere with your daily activities.

How is chronic pain treated?

Treatment of chronic pain usually involves medicines and therapy.  Medicines used for chronic pain include pain relievers, antidepressants and anticonvulsants. Different types of medicines help people who have different types of pain. You usually use long-acting medicines for constant pain. Short-acting medicines treat pain that comes and goes.

Several types of therapy can help ease your pain. Physical therapy (such as stretching and strengthening activities) and low-impact exercise (such as walking, swimming or biking) can help reduce the pain. However, exercising too much or not at all can hurt chronic pain patients. Occupational therapy teaches you how to pace yourself and how to do ordinary tasks differently so you won't hurt yourself. Behavioral therapy can reduce your pain through methods that help you relax, such as meditation and yoga. It can also help decrease stress.

Lifestyle changes are an important part of treatment for chronic pain. Getting regular sleep at night and not taking daytime naps should help. Quit smoking also helps because the nicotine in cigarettes can make some medicines less effective. Smokers also tend to have more pain than nonsmokers.

Most pain treatments will not take away all of your pain. Instead, treatment should reduce how much pain you have and how often it occurs. Talk to your doctor to learn how to best control your pain.

What should I tell my doctor about my pain?

Telling your doctor about your pain will help him or her find the right treatment for you. Tell your doctor where the pain is, how bad it is and how often your pain occurs. Also talk about what makes the pain better or worse.

•  Sharp vs dull pain

•  Local vs all over pain

•  Consistent vs intermitten pain

•  Pain in the same area on both sides of body

•  Worst time of day for pain (ie. morning)

•  Previous injuries

Your doctor may review other health problems you may have (such as arthritis, breathing problems and heart conditions) because these may keep you from doing some types of therapy. Your doctor may also ask if you have had any problems with sleep, mood or anxiety.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 9:59AM