It is the brain, not the point of injury
that registers the sensation of pain. When you feel
pain, it is really a reaction to signals that are transmitted
throughout your body. These signals are sent from the
pain source, through the nerves in the spinal cord,
to your brain, where you perceive them as pain. This
is important because it means that pain can be controlled
by preventing the pain signals from reaching the brain.
If the pain signals never reach the brain, you don't
feel the pain.
Different types of pain
The origin of some pain is neuropathic, while other
pain is nociceptive. This is important to know because
different treatments will work better for each type
Neuropathic pain is pain that is caused by damage to
nerve tissue. It is often felt as a burning or stabbing
pain. One example of a neuropathic pain is a "pinched
Nociceptive pain means pain caused by an injury or disease
outside the nervous system. It is often an ongoing dull
ache or pressure, rather than the sharper, electric-like
pain more characteristic of neuropathic pain. Examples
of chronic nociceptive pain include pain from cancer
Some people experience mixed pain, which is a combination
of neuropathic and nociceptive pain.
What is chronic pain?
Acute pain (such as spraining your ankle) acts as a
warning to signal harm or possible damage to tissues
in your body. It prevents additional damage by alerting
you to react and remove the source of pain. However,
when pain lasts a long time (over six months) and is
not relieved by standard medical management, it is called
"chronic" pain. In chronic pain, the pain
signal no longer helps, but hinders your body.
Chronic pain may result from a previous injury long
since healed, or it may have an ongoing cause, such
as arthritis, cancer, nerve damage, or chronic infection.
with chronic pain, normal lifestyles can be restricted
or even impossible.
Many people suffer with chronic pain, unaware that there
are a variety of treatment options that can help them
live more normal lives.
If you have chronic pain, you should seek out information
about these various treatment options. Because there
are many new ways to treat pain, it is important that
you speak openly with your doctor or with a doctor who
specializes in treating chronic pain -- a pain specialist.
How common is chronic pain?
Pain is recognized as a major public health problem.
In the United States, it is estimated that chronic pain
affects 15% to 33% of the U.S. population or as many
as 70 million people. In fact, chronic pain disables
more people than cancer or heart disease and costs the
American people more than both combined. Pain costs
an estimated $70 billion a year in medical costs, lost
working days, and workers' compensation.
Barriers to seeking pain relief
Many people with chronic pain don't seek pain relief,
or even tell their doctors about their pain. Most often,
the reasons for keeping pain a secret are based on fears
Fear of being labeled as a "bad patient."
You won't find relief if you don't talk with your doctor
about the pain you feel.
Fear that increased pain may mean that the disease
has worsened. Regardless of the state
of your disease, the right treatment for pain may improve
daily life for you and your family.
Fear of addiction to drugs. Research has shown
that the chance of people with chronic pain
becoming addicted to pain-relieving drugs is extremely
small. When taken
for pain, drugs can relieve pain without addiction.
Needing to take medication to
control your pain is not addiction.
Lack of awareness about pain therapy options.
Be honest about how your pain feels and
how it affects your life. Ask your doctor about the
pain therapy options available to you.
Often, if one therapy isn't effectively controlling
your pain, another therapy can.
Fear of being perceived as "weak."
Some believe that living stoically with pain is a sign
strength, while seeking help often is considered negative
or weak. This perception prevents
them seeking the best treatment with available therapies.