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Chronic Pain Management

What Every Patient Should Know About Pain


What is Pain?

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines PAIN as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.”


Pain is the result of a complex series of electrochemical changes that occur in an area of your body. Many factors affect how you may experience pain. Pain, although unpleasant, is a wonderful way that your body tells you that something is wrong and needs attention.


But what you should also know is that your doctor and affiliated health care practitioners can help control your sensation of pain. You do not have to suffer in pain when there are sound treatments for it. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP ABOUT YOUR PAIN!


How do our bodies feel pain?

The process begins with a trauma, injury, or other noxious event that affects the electrical activity at our nerve endings. Nerve impulses or messages are sent up the nervous system pathways to our brains which register and interpret the messages. Factors affect how our brain registers the messages. These factors include not only the physical sensation of the change in our bodies but the emotional feelings associated with the pain and our beliefs or perceptions about the pain.


There are different types of pain.

Pain can be Acute, Chronic, or Associated with Life Threatening Disease.


Acute Pain is pain with a sudden onset and most notably occurs in association with surgery. Post Operative pain is a common and often expected result of surgical procedures. Acute Pain may also be the immediate sensation which accompanies an emergent medical situation, such as a cardiac event or athletic injury.


Chronic Pain is continuous, over a span of time, and is associated with a chronic condition. There are different types of chronic pain conditions such as Headache, Back Pain, Myofascial Pain (affecting muscle trigger points), Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Abdominal and Gastrointestinal Pain conditions, to name a few.


Pain associated with Life Threatening Disease occurs in individuals, for example, who suffer from cancer conditions or HIV/AIDS.


How to describe pain to your health care professional.

While you are in the hospital, your nursing staff will be asking you about your pain in an effort to plan for medical treatment to make you feel as comfortable as possible. For example, you may be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 equals NO PAIN and 5 equals EXCRUCIATING PAIN. You may also be asked to describe whether your pain is BRIEF, PERIODIC, or CONTINUOUS. You can also use descriptors such as throbbing, pounding, sharp, dull, hot, stinging, numbing, or any other words to communicate your pain to your doctor. 


Pain is real.

Pain is not all in your head! It is not “made up” or “all psychological”. However, psychological factors can affect the way you feel the pain. For example, have you ever noticed a black and blue bruise on your body that you do not remember ever getting and don't know how it got there? Obviously, the bruise is real, not fake, but your attention and thoughts at the time it occurred were focused elsewhere. In contrast, if someone tried to give you another bruise just like the first, while you were aware and watching, you would most likely clearly feel the pain! This is an example of how psychological factors can influence the way you feel pain. Controlling your psychological focus can help you control your pain. 


Fears about addiction to pain medication.

Some individuals who are in considerable pain refuse to take medication or to ask about medication because they are afraid that they will become addicted to it. If you have never had a substance abuse problem and if you use medication properly, under the guidance of your physician, your fears may be IRRATIONAL.


If you have experienced difficulty with the abuse of substances, your doctor can help you devise a treatment plan which will best serve your needs.


In either case, you need to be honest with your doctor, ask questions, and become educated. There is no reason to endure pain which affects the quality of your life and your daily functioning if there are treatments for it. There are no awards of prizes for how much pain a person can tolerate. 


Pain management is important.

The best plan for the management of your pain will depend on a number of factors such as your illness, the intensity of your pain, whether your pain is acute or chronic, and how motivated you are to overcome it.


Your doctors, nurses, and other health care practitioners can help you manage your pain. They can educate you about the pain management alternatives which may best fit your needs. Pain can be controlled in many different ways on both an inpatient and an outpatient basis through one or any combination of the following, depending on your medical condition: 

  • Medication 

  • Surgery 

  • Nerve Blocks

  • Implantation Devices 

  • Physical Therapy 

  • Relaxation 

  • Hypnosis 

  • Biofeedback 

  • Psychotherapy

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