Understanding Pain

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Everyone is familiar with experiencing pain. Sometimes, pain is easy to account for if a finger has been burnt or a toe has been stubbed. At other times, pain is less obvious. The pain of toothache cannot be seen, but it is very real to whoever experiences it.

What types of Pain are There?

bloodshot eye

Specific terms are used for different types of pain. Short term pain, such as a bruised arm, is called acute pain. Long-term pain is called persistent or chronic pain. Pain that comes and goes, like a headache, is called recurrent pain.  

Sometimes, pain can be a useful signal that something is wrong. If an athlete needs to rest an overused leg muscle, pain can provide an important message to rest the leg until it has had time to heal. In contrast, persistent pain appears to serve no useful purpose, but has a huge effect on the lives of many people.

When pain continues for a long time, it can affect every part of life in how a person copes with it. It can affect ability to work, relationships with family and friends, activity levels and sleep. This can have an overwhelming effect, causing a cycle of increasing pain and distress.

How to Deal with Long Term Pain?

thermometer on top of lots of pills

It is important that the individual works alongside relevant health professionals in order that the condition is managed in the best way. Sometimes, pain cannot be removed, but at least, it can be minimised, and strategies put in place for managing the situation as well as possible. It is sometimes necessary to try a number of options to see if they bring some relief. This is not because the healthcare professionals do not understand the nature of pain, but because pain is a complex subject and every individual experience of pain is different.

So – Who can help? General Practitioners (GPs) may help with pain issues in a number of ways, often being the first port of call for help. The GP may prescribe medication or suggest a number of options for further help. Specialist pain clinics exist in hospitals and at NHS clinics.  At these clinics, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and occupational therapists all contribute to pain management. Professionals include: Pain specialists, Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors, Specialist pain nurses, Occupational therapists (OT) and Pharmacists. If you're interested in the way the human body processes pain, perhaps our Anatomy and Physiology course is great for getting you started!

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