What is Pain: Everything you need to know



What happens when you accidentally touch a hot stove? Your body gives a reflex, and you move away. How does this happen? This happens because the body has pain receptors.

These pain receptors are present throughout the body, both outside and inside. When you touch a hot surface, the body sends the brain an electrical message through the spinal cord.

The brain then receives the message through the nervous system and translates it as pain. Pain is the way our body communicates with us. This painful way of communication might not be comfortable, but it is honest.

Pain is a message our body is giving us. For example, stomach pain is the body’s way of telling us that we ate something bad, or we overate. A headache is our body telling us to rest some more.

In simple words, pain is an uncomfortable feeling or sensation in the body. It is an important function which is essential to life. Imagine if you didn’t feel pain when you touched a hot surface. You wouldn’t take your hand away without the pain causing a reflex action.

Pain makes us aware of possible danger and assists us in keeping ourselves safe. Each person responds to pain differently and manages their pain differently. Something that might be painful for one person may not be painful for another.

Even though each person reacts to pain differently, pain can be classified into different types.


Types of Pain

Pain is classified in various ways. It is classified by the duration of the pain. It is also classified by the area and system of the body it affects. Let’s explore pain that is classified by the duration it’s last.


Acute Pain and Chronic Pain

Acute pain can be excruciating but lasts for a short time. It begins suddenly, and the source of acute pain is clear. For example, touching a hot stove, getting a cut on your body and stabbing your toe.

Chronic pain lasts longer. In many cases, the pain is constant. Chronic pain lasts for a month or many years. It can disturb sleep patterns and decrease appetite. Because of its long duration, chronic pain can also cause depression.

Acute pain causes temporary anxiety, increase in breathing and high blood pressure. Whereas, chronic pain does not affect blood pressure or increase in breathing rates

In acute pain, the brain receives an electrical message signalling danger, and the body reacts with taking itself away from danger.

In chronic pain, the body sends the electrical message. And even after the brain receives the message of pain, it keeps sending the same message. The resending of the same electrical signal is what causes chronic pain.

Examples of chronic pain are cancer, arthritis, back pain and migraines.


Nerve Pain

Another type of pain is nerve pain. In most cases, this kind of pain is chronic and in some, it goes away on its own. The symptoms of nerve pain include shooting and burning sensations.

Other symptoms include tingling and numbing of the nerves in the area of pain. It is a result of nerve damage in the body or a malfunctioning nervous system.

An example of nerve pain is central pain syndrome which causes chronic pain. The pain of the central pain syndrome comes from a damaged central nervous system.

Tumours, multiple sclerosis and other things may have been the cause of damage. Doctors treat nerve pain with antidepressant medications and anticonvulsant drugs.

Other treatments like physical therapy, counselling, relaxation therapy, acupuncture, reiki and massage therapy also can alleviate nerve pain.


Psychogenic Pain

Psychogenic pain has more to do with psychological pain than physical pain. Mental and emotional problems are a symptom and cause of psychogenic pain. A person with psychogenic pain can suffer from pain that does not match their symptoms.

Common symptoms of psychogenic pain include stomach ache, headache, muscle and back pain. Doctors treat this type of psychological pain with non-narcotic painkillers, antidepressants, psychotherapy and counselling. Psychogenic pain also includes psychological disorders like bipolar disorder, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). 


Musculoskeletal Pain

You feel this type of pain in the muscles, ligaments, bones and tendons. Fractures, sprains, auto accidents, jerk trauma and dislocations can cause musculoskeletal pain.

Not moving for a long time or repetitive movements can also cause pain in the musculoskeletal system. Other causes of pain include overuse of muscles and wrong posture.

People with musculoskeletal pain often report that their whole body is hurting. This type of pain also causes muscles to twitch or burn. Sleep disturbances, pain and fatigue, are some common symptoms of musculoskeletal pain.

Doctors treat this pain with pain killers, anti-inflammatory and other drugs to reduce the pain the muscles and ligaments. For sleep disturbances, doctors also prescribe medications for sleep.

Other treatments for this type of pain are gentle stretching exercises, physical therapy, acupuncture, biofeedback techniques, chiropractic and massage treatments.


Abdominal Pain

This is one of the most common types of pain. We have all experienced abdominal pain at some points. This type of pain is also very common with women.

In most cases, this type of pain is not serious. But in some severe cases, it may be a cause of concern. Food allergies, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), food poisoning and excessive gas are some of the causes of abdominal pain.

In women specifically, menstruation pain, pelvic disorders, and PCOS may be the case of abdominal pain.

If you experience severe symptoms like fever, vomiting blood, and swollen belly, immediately contact your doctor. After an accurate diagnosis, doctors treat severe cases of abdominal pain with necessary medications and therapy.


Joint Pain

Joint pain is another common form of pain. Joints form a connection between the entire bone structure of the body. They also provide support and help us move.

Damage to the joints due to injury or disease can cause severe pain. Strains, arthritis, bursitis, gout and other injuries can be a cause for joint pain.

Knee pain is the most common form of joint pain. This is due to the wear and tear of knees, which can happen due to excessive standing, running or other accidents.

Hip pain and shoulder pain are other forms of joint pain that are common. But really, joint pain can occur in any part of the body that has joints. It can be chronic and can last for many years. It can also be acute and only last for a few weeks.

There are different treatments for various types of joint pain. Medications, physical therapy and injections are an essential part of the treatment plan for joint pain.



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