What is Pain?

 

 
 



The definition of pain given by the International Association for the Study of Pain is:

An unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential damage, or described by the patient in terms of such damage.

We can see from this definition that pain is not equal to damage; it may occur even before the damage has occurred. Pain definitely becomes an emotional experience, especially when it interferes with ones’ daily life. It is very hard to objectively quantify pain and compare it to the amount of physical bodily damage. Moreover, the emotional aspect of pain can have a huge impact not only on the perception of pain but also on the perpetuation of pain. Even if the pain has a structural cause, the presence of an associated anxiety, depression or fear avoidance behaviour will perpetuate the pain.

Acute pain has a clear purpose. If you put your hand in a fire, or cut your hand with a knife, you definitely want to know as soon as possible that it is in your best interest to take your hand away from the danger. These pain signals are transmitted in special type A beta pain fibres which transmit these pain signals really fast, leading to a reflex, even before you feel the pain. When pain lingers on for a few days, it is supposed to tell your body that there is something acutely going on and your body needs to rest in order that it can repair any damage or cure inflammation that has resulted. Chronic pain is transmitted via different mechanisms. This will be elaborated on in a separate section


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