03 Nov Pain and Pain Treatments, Part 1: A Pain Primer
We all deal with pain, in one form or another, throughout our lives. Joint aches, headaches, stomach aches — at times, it can feel as though pain comes from everywhere and nowhere at once.
In Part One of Three in our mini-series Pain and Pain Treatments, we will give a broad overview of pain to set the stage. In Part Two, we’ll discuss over-the-counter and prescription treatments. And in Part Three, we’ll dive into the at-home DIY methods of treating pain.
Let’s take a look!
Broadly, What is Pain?
Pain is more than just a feeling of discomfort. It can affect the way you feel overall. It may also lead to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. The amount of pain you experience can tell your doctor a lot about your overall health.
Acute pain happens suddenly, usually in a matter of days or weeks. It tends to resolve within a few weeks. Chronic pain is ongoing. Some guidelines consider pain to be chronic when it lasts beyond three months. Others say pain is chronic when it lasts longer than six months.
Pain-relief methods range from at-home treatments and prescriptions to over-the-counter (OTC) medications and invasive procedures like surgery. Pain relief doesn’t usually happen overnight, but it can. Each person’s pain experience is unique to them.
To treat the source of chronic pain, you may need to visit your doctor. Use this easy scale to help you describe your pain so you can get the relief you need.
What are the Different Types of Pain?
There are two main types of pain: nociceptive and neuropathic.
Nociceptive pain a term used to describe the pain from physical damage or potential damage to the body. The pain of a stubbed toe, the ache after a dental procedure, the crush of a headache — these are all examples of nociceptive pain.
More specifically, nociceptive pain is when nociceptive nerve fibers are triggered in your body; it’s a nervous system response that helps protect your body. It makes you pull your hand back from a hot stove so you don’t get burned. Pain from a sprained ankle forces you to rest and give the injury time to heal.
There are three types of nociceptive pain:
Radicular pain occurs when the nerve roots are irritated. It goes down your arm or leg through a nerve that comes from the the spinal cord.
Radiculopathy is an example of a condition that causes radicular pain. Radiculopathy occurs when a nerve is pinched in the spine. It causes numbness, weakness, and tingling — or feelings of pins and needles — among other symptoms.
Somatic pain happens when any of the pain receptors in your tissues, such as muscles, bone, or skin, are activated. This type of pain is often stimulated by movement and is usually localized. Headaches and cuts are both considered somatic pain.
Visceral pain happens when internal organs, such as involuntary muscles in the heart, are injured or inflamed. This type of pain is usually described as aching, and the location may seem vague.
Neuropathic pain is different, because it has no known benefits. It may be a result of misread signals between your nerves and brain or spinal cord. Or it could be because of nerve damage. Your brain interprets faulty signals from the nerves as pain.
Examples of neuropathic pain type include:
To get effective pain relief, you first need to find the source of the pain.
What are signs you need to see a doctor for pain?
Make an appointment with your doctor if your pain:
- hasn’t gone away after two to three weeks
- is causing you stress, anxiety, or depression
- prevents you from relaxing or sleeping
- stops you from exercising or participating in your normal activities
- hasn’t improved with any of the treatments you’ve tried
Living with chronic pain can be emotionally and physically challenging. Many types of treatments can help you find relief.