Pain is an unpleasant feeling in response to a stimulus. This stimulus could be something that can cause you an injury (e.g. touching fire), an existing injury (e.g. broken arm) or an illness (e.g. sore throat). The severity of pain can vary from slight discomfort to leaving a person in absolute distress. One of the reasons why we feel pain is so that we know when a certain action is harming us. Ultimately it is a nervous response to something our bodies do not like.
Pain as a sensation can be felt anywhere on the body. When deciding on how to deal with pain it is important to know the root cause of the pain and understanding what the stimulus is. Treatment for a broken arm would differ to treatment for the flu. Treatment should aim to reduce pain if not completely mitigate it.
Pain can be classified as being either chronic or acute. The first would refer to persistent pain that lasts over an extended period of time. Long term conditions such as tendonitis or rheumatoid arthritis. However the cause of pain is not always straight forward, with some causes being unknown.
Acute pain is pain that can be treated over a period of time until it is diminished. e.g. the swelling related pain around a broken bone can be treated by resting that limb and taking painkillers during the recovery process to ease the painful symptoms.
Beyond acute and chronic, pain can be classified further in to:
1. Nociceptive pain – This is caused by the stimulation of specific pain receptors. Inflammation, vibration, stretching, temperature, and the chemical discharge from damaged cells can stimulate receptors.
2. Non-nociceptive pain – This occurs in the event of damage to nerves. The result is unusual signals to be sent through the nervous system. These unusual signals are deciphered as pain by the central nervous system. Types of Non-nociceptive pain include:
Referred pain/Reflective pain is when pain is felt in another part of the body other than the root of an injury.
There are many different ways in which pain is managed including drug and non-drug intervention, both to good effect. In terms of drug intervention, there are a few different types of painkillers:
NSAIDs - These are Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs such as Naproxen and Ibuprofen. They work at the point of pain to reduce inflammation and chemicals that cause pain.
General Analgesics - Such as Paracetamol work in the central nervous system to reduce the feeling of pain.
Opioids - These are compounds that originate from opium and have a similar general structure to eachother. Examples of opioids are morphine, codeine, tramadol, oxycodone. These drugs are powerful painkillers that work on pain receptors both at the site of pain and in the central nervous system. They can cause drowsiness, can cause dependency and sometimes nausea and vomitting in patients. Therefore, these drugs are not given unless completely appropriate.
There are various other types of drugs that are also used in pain management however the above 3 are the main types used in management. For certain types of joint an muscle pain, topical treatments such as NSAIDs and rubefacient creams are also effective, as well as the use of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine. For more information about TENS CLICK HERE
For help with managing long term pain CLICK HERE for free advice from the NHS
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