Pain is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. The International Association for the Study of Pain’s widely used definition, defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” However, due to it being a complex, subjective phenomenon, defining pain has been a challenge. In medical diagnosis, pain is regarded as a symptom of an underlying condition.
Pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations, to protect a damaged body part while it heals, and to avoid similar experiences in the future. Most pain resolves once the noxious stimulus is removed and the body has healed, but it may persist despite removal of the stimulus and apparent healing of the body. Sometimes pain arises in the absence of any detectable stimulus, damage or disease.
4 Common Types of Pain and their Causes
Even though the experience of pain varies from one person to the next, it is possible to categorize the different types of pain.
1. Chronic Pain
Just about everyone feels pain from time to time. When you cut your finger or pull a muscle, pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Once the injury heals, you stop hurting. Chronic pain is different. Your body keeps hurting weeks, months, or even years after the injury. Doctors often define chronic pain as any pain that lasts for 3 to 6 months or more, the pain can have real effects on your day-to-day life and your metal health.
Conditions that Causes Chronic Pain
Sometimes chronic pain can begin without any obvious cause. But for many people, it starts after an injury or because of a health condition. Some of the leading causes include:
- Past injuries or surgeries
- Back problems
- Migraines and other headaches
- Nerve damage
- Fibromyalgia, a condition in which people feel muscle pain throughout their bodies
Chronic pain can range from mild to severe. It can continue day after day or come and go. The pain can feel like: a dull ache, throbbing, burning, shooting, squeezing, stinging, soreness, stiffness. If you are experiencing any pains in your body for some time now that have refused to disappear, you should visit your doctor for proper diagnosis of the cause of the pain and appropriate treatment.
2. Nerve Pain or Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is often described as a shooting or burning pain. It can go away on its own but is often chronic. Sometimes it is unrelenting and severe, and sometimes it comes and goes. It often is the result of nerve damage or a malfunctioning nervous system. The impact of nerve damage is a change in nerve function both at the site of the injury and areas around it.
One example of neuropathic pain is called phantom limb syndrome. This rare condition occurs when an arm or a leg has been removed because of illness or injury, but the brain still gets pain messages from the nerves that originally carried impulses from the missing limb. These nerves now misfire and cause pain.
Neuropathic pain often seems to have no obvious cause. But some common causes of neuropathic pain include; alcoholism, amputation, chemotherapy, diabetes, facial nerve problems, HIV infection or AIDS, multiple myeloma, multiple sclerosis, nerve or spinal cord compression from herniated discs or from arthritis in the spine, shingles, spine surgery, syphilis, thyroid problems.
Neuropathic pain symptoms may include Shooting and burning pain, tingling and numbness.
Unfortunately, neuropathic pain often responds poorly to standard pain treatments and occasionally may get worse instead of better over time. For some people, it can lead to serious disability. A multidisciplinary approach that combines therapies, however, can be a very effective way to provide relief from neuropathic pain.
Anticonvulsant and antidepressant drugs are often the first line of treatment. Some neuropathic pain studies suggest the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aleve or Motrin, may ease pain. Some people may require a stronger painkiller. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of the medicine you take with your doctor.
If another condition, such as diabetes, is involved, better management of that disorder may alleviate the pain. Effective management of the condition can also help prevent further nerve damage.
In cases that are difficult to treat, a pain specialist may use an invasive or implantable device to effectively manage the pain. Electrical stimulation of the nerves involved in neuropathic pain may significantly control the pain symptoms.
Other kinds of treatments can also help with neuropathic pain. Some of these include:
- Physical therapy
- Working with a counselor
- Relaxation therapy
- Massage therapy
3. Psychogenic Pain
Psychogenic pain is a pain disorder associated with psychological factors. Some types of mental or emotional problems can cause, increase or prolong pain. A person with a psychogenic pain disorder may complain of pain that does not match his or her symptoms; Headaches, muscle pains, back pain, and stomach pains are some of the most common types of psychogenic pain. Treatment for psychogenic pain may include psychotherapy, antidepressants and non-narcotic painkillers. Ask a doctor for more information if you think that someone you care about may have psychogenic pain.
4. Muscoloskeletal Pain
Musculoskeletal pain is pain that affects the muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones.
The causes of musculoskeletal pain are varied. Muscle tissue can be damaged with the wear and tear of daily activities. Trauma to an area (jerking movements, auto accidents, falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct blows to the muscle) also can cause musculoskeletal pain.
Other causes of pain include postural strain, repetitive movements, overuse, and prolonged immobilization. Changes in posture or poor body mechanics may bring about spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening, therefore causing other muscles to be misused and become painful.
People with musculoskeletal pain sometimes complain that their entire bodies ache. Their muscles may feel like they have been pulled or overworked. Sometimes, the muscles twitch or burn. Symptoms vary from person to person, but the common symptoms are pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Different types of manual therapy, or mobilization, can be used to treat people with spinal alignment problems. For some acute musculoskeletal pain, these techniques have been shown to speed up recovery.
Other treatments may include:
- Injections with anesthetic or anti-inflammatory medications in or around the painful sites.
- Exercise that includes muscle strengthening and stretching.
- Physical or occupational therapy.
- Acupuncture or acupressure.
- Relaxation/biofeedback techniques.
- Osteopathic manipulation (a whole system of evaluation and treatment designed to achieve and maintain health by restoring normal function to the body).
- Therapeutic massage.
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