For some, it's a passing annoyance. For others, it is a heavy burden. Pain affects everybody differently, and there are many types of pain. In the simplest terms, pain is the body's way of telling us that something is wrong. In many cases, the cause of the pain is obvious, such as a rash or a broken bone. Occasionally it can be quite difficult to locate the source of pain, such as in the case of a slipped disc.
There are three main classifications of pain. These are:
Chronic Pain - a pain that is persistent, such as arthritis or sciatica
Acute Pain - a short term pain that is usually accompanied by an obvious injury, such as a sprain or a break
Recurrent Pain - also known as Intermittent Pain, this form of pain can come and go. Certain aches, including tooth ache, are a good example.
These are the common forms of pains that affect the majority of people. Chronic pains in particular affect more than two fifths of the British population. These persistent pains often don't serve their original purpose of alerting us to our bodies problems, becoming an irritating hindrance over time.
Acute pains are more helpful, though they can often feel the opposite. These pains prevent us from doing further damage to our bodies and force us to rest, helping the injury heal. Walking on a broken leg will only make the condition worse, but there are still many of us who would do it if it weren't for the terrible pain.
There are rarer forms of pain which many people will experience. These include:
Nerve Pain - when a nerve is damaged. This can include trapped nerves and the famous 'funny bone'
Bone Pain - an extreme tenderness in the bones which can be present whether you're moving or not. It can often be caused by diseases that affect bone function, such as cancer.
Breakthrough Pain - a sharp wave of pain that strikes people on regular pain medication, breaking through the pain control.
Referred Pain - when pain from one part of the body is felt in another part. For example, pain in the teeth or jaw can be one of the first symptoms of a heart attack.
Soft Tissue Pain - organs, muscles and tissues can all become damaged or inflamed, leading to both acute and chronic pain.
Phantom Pain - a rare type of pain that occurs in a body part that has been removed.
Many pains, primarily chronic pains, can be difficult to diagnose correctly. This is made doubly difficult if referred pain confuses the diagnosis even further. In order to assist the doctor and get on the best treatment path, it is a good idea to start keeping a pain journal.
For those suffering chronic or recurrent pain, this simple activity can be of great assistance for helping to control and treat their pain. Once the pain has receded, the episode can be recorded in the journal to better inform the doctor. Usually the perception of pain will be rated on a scale from one to ten, with one being mild pain that can be ignored and ten being a severe pain that interrupts activities and concentration. Many doctors may also wish to know how the pain felt. Descriptors such as 'burning', 'sharp', 'stabbing' or 'throbbing' may help to bring across how it felt.
There is a great reluctance to talk about pain in the UK, especially chronic pain which is often less visible yet can have a devastating effect on people's lives. For those who suffer from regular pains, it is important to talk to your doctor in order to determine the source of the pain and suggest appropriate treatment for you.
There are a range of pain management resources out there that can help, many of which can be easily integrated into a routine. If you find yourself in pain, don't suffer in silence; speak to your doctor about the pain you are experiencing and find the right treatment for managing your pain.