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What is Pain ?

There are two main types of pain. Acute pain is a normal response by the body to sickness or damage. In most cases it is not prolonged. Chronic long term pain is frequently a product of chronic disease an earlier injury or perhaps surgery. Such chronic pain usually results from the way we heal.

Pain is a unique experience for each individual and no two people experience pain in precisely the same way. Perhaps the worst thing about pain is that it may be elusive and is usually particular to pain sufferer. Sometimes it can be very difficult to describe to other people in an accurate fashion. This makes finding the source of the pain and, as a consequence, getting relief more difficult.

The word pain is normally used to describe a multitude of physical effects however it is best described as a sensory or emotional reaction to real or impending damage to the body's tissue. Emotional distress can make many demands as physical pain. Pain can be categorised into the different categories as described here.

Acute Pain

This is instantaneous pain that is usually the outcome of a physical trauma, or mishap, such as a fall, a blow, a sprain, a bone fracture, inflammation and / or an infection. It is emergency pain and it is trying to warn us that the body is being damaged in some way. It informs us quickly and directly that there is something wrong and that we need to react in some manner to stop the damage. Acute pain normally dissipates as the healing occurs, but it may develop into chronic pain after the healing is complete.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, unlike acute pain that usually goes away with time and treatment, is enduring and long term in nature. Chronic pain continues even after healing has occurred or where the source or cause of the pain persists. The role of chronic pain in the body is difficult to understand. It is not just an indicator that something should be done quickly or that requires a reaction by the pain sufferer.

Chronic pain is a pain that simply will not go away. It is quite often difficult to explain why the pain persists. In some cases pain is a result of the healing process. The healing may be successful but in a such way that it continues to cause pain. Chronic pain is ever-present and nagging, and remains despite everything being done to ease it.

Many conditions produce chronic pain including arthritis, rheumatic disorders, and long-term conditions such as lupus. Sufferers will readily confirm that severe chronic pain can be extremely distressing and debilitating.

Referred Pain

An important aspect of pain is that it may be referred. Referred pain is experienced at some remove from where the pain actually begins. Or put another way, the site of the pain is not the source of the pain. An example would be osteo-arthritis of the hip which causes pain to be felt in the knee joint.

Clearly it is vital to discover what is the source of the pain to be able to deal with it effectively and, of course, that means being able to identify the real origin of the aggravation. Naturally when the source is not the same as where the pain is being experienced this identification can become far more difficult.

This phenomenon is not fully understood by non-experts and is a major reason for errors in the proper and successful relief of pain by people treating themselves. Sometimes such mistakes can have damaging and even fatal consequences. In some very rare situations pain in the right shoulder may be a symptom of cancer of the abdomen.

It is essential to seek professional, and usually medical, advice for persistent pain, or pain that appears to have no obvious cause.

Emotional Pain

For most us pain is usually thought of as physical pain. However there is another type of pain that is just as real. This is emotional pain. This is the pain and torment we feel via our mind and emotions. It is the type of pain we experience from being a sense of rejection, bereavement, problems with relationships, or the loss of love. External causes such as becoming unemployed or financial worries can also lead to emotional pain.

One acute form of emotional distress is from depression. Depression is a catch-all term that covers, anything from feeling down in the dumps to extreme mental and emotional pain. Mental pain has a pain subset that may include nightmares, fears, phobias, and more extreme obsessions, compulsions and addictions to food, drink, drugs or sex, just for example. It is very important also to realise that long-term emotional pain can lead to physical issues such as ulcers or migraine. This psychosomatic illness is therefore a type of referred pain and can also be quite difficult to diagnose.

Our Responses to Pain

Physical pain and psychological pain are quite closely linked. Physical pain can cause psychological effects, ranging from temporary worry to depression. Equally emotional pain can bring about physical symptoms.

It is increasingly being accepted that the mind and body should not be treated as separate parts but should be considered as a whole - or holistically. This is not only the situation with the causes of pain but in the treatment of pain and it's causes.

Many older and traditional forms of healing, such as traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy and homeopathy, as well as many conventional doctors specialising in pain control and management, recognise this link between mind and body.

The science of psycho-neuro- immunology (PNI) explores how the mind can help the body to heal itself and how the body can influence the mind. The power of the mind can promote the release of chemicals within the brain which have a bearing on the body's physical state and that these can either be positive or be negative.

Dealing with aspects of a person's physical state, for example diet and exercise, can help to successfully treat symptoms of emotional pain.

What is Pain - How We Feel Pain
Pain & Musculosketal System - Pain & Nervous System - Pain & Digestive System


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