Understanding Pain

By Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog, Medical Discovery News
Pain is so common, one in three Americans report experiencing it daily. The financial cost due to pain tops more than half a trillion dollars per year. In its most elemental form, pain is our body’s way of letting us know that something is not right.

Not surprisingly, all pain is not the same. The perception of pain is quite individualized, as everyone has a different pain scale that can vary due to factors such as gender and age. It is nearly impossible to objectively measure pain – it is one of those things that people experience differently and it is completely self-reported, so the experience is personal and the scale of intensity is individualized.
On the most basic level, pain can be classified as two types: acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Acute pain results mostly from injury to our tissues due to trauma, inflammation or disease. In most cases, this type of pain is self-limiting and can be easily localized, diagnosed, and treated. In some cases, acute pain can lead to chronic pain. In contrast, chronic pain is present over an extended period of time and is more difficult to treat. This type of pain can be made worse by environmental and psychological factors.

Pain can also be classified into different categories. Something called nociceptive pain occurs when specific receptors on cells are activated. This can be in response to temperature, vibration, stretching, or chemical signals released from damaged cells. This type of pain can be somatic, meaning it’s associated with musculoskeletal elements of the body like skin, muscles, and bones. Somatic pain is localized and can be distinguished by the ability to activate the pain by touch —> Read More

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