Pain is typically categorized into two broad areas: acute and chronic.
Acute pain is easier to diagnose and treat than chronic pain. Acute pain, for the most part, results from disease, inflammation, or injury to tissues. It is immediate and usually of a short duration. Typically with acute pain, your heart rate, breathing and sweating increase. Acute pain is a normal response to injury and may be accompanied by anxiety or emotional distress. The cause of acute pain can usually be diagnosed and treated.
An article on chronic pain in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that chronic pain is expensive because of the resulting disability and absence from work. In other recent studies, researchers say, “more attention has been paid to the impact of chronic pain on daily living.” Additionally, many treatment modalities have been developed over the years, such as pharmacological, physical, psychological,
electrotherapeutic, cognitive and surgical (ablation, decompression) approaches to pain management. According to the National Institute of Health, chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain can be due to a disease or the treatment of a disease. Surgery can also result in long-term pain secondary to scarring or even permanent nerve damage. There can be several causes of chronic pain and some causes may be unexplainable. People may have sleep disturbances, decreased libido, constipation, lethargy, decreased appetite and personality change as these are all classic symptoms of chronic pain.
Patients with chronic pain often do not appear to be in pain — but they are! Research suggests that chronic pain sufferers exhibit greater brain activity compared to healthy people when subjected to pain. This may be the reasoning behind why they experience pain differently. Chronic pain sufferers have become accustomed to a life with pain. Instead of seeing typical indications of pain, such as increased vital signs, people with chronic
pain can appear to be in no pain at all . It is important when dealing with chronic pain to understand the different types and mechanisms of pain.
Referred pain is felt some distance from where the pain actually originates. In other words, the site of the pain is not necessarily the source.
Phantom pain occurs when you have had a limb, breast or other body part removed by surgery. People describe the pain as unpleasant sensations coming from the missing body part. Somatic pain is caused by activation of a pain receptor. Remember, pain nerve endings, called nociceptors,
are programmed to respond to various stimuli. The characteristics of somatic pain are very localized aching or throbbing. Examples include joint and bone pain.
Visceral pain is also caused by activation of a pain receptor. The patient often feels achy, vaguely localized pain. It commonly originates in the abdomen or the chest; however it does not feel limited to only one area. A good example of visceral pain is chest pain due to a heart attack. In this case, the pain occurs in the chest, but it can be felt in the neck or down the arm. This type of pain is more difficult to treat.
Neuropathic pain is caused by destruction of a nerve in either the peripheral or central nervous system. People can describe neuropathy as severe, sharp, shooting, or a stabbing pain or a burning, numb, or tingling sensation.
Myofascial pain is muscle pain that occurs in conjunction with other pains. The trigger point is a localized, highly irritable spot in a tight band of skeletal muscle. Palpation of these triggers points will alter the pain and cause it to increase or radiate.