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Pain management (also called pain medicine) is the discipline concerned with the relief of pain. Pain has been described as, "An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with either actual or potential tissue damage. It is a very personal and individual experience - defined as whatever the patient says it is, and it exists wherever he or she says it does."[1]

Pain can be acute or chronic. The distinction between acute and chronic pain is not based on its duration of sensation, but rather the nature of the pain itself. Management and therapy is adequated to this distinction.

Acute pain

In general, physicians are more comfortable treating acute pain, which usually is caused by soft tissue damage, infection and/or inflammation among other causes. It is usually treated simultaneously with pharmaceuticals or appropriate techniques for removing the cause and pharmaceuticals or appropriate techniques for controlling the pain sensation, commonly analgesics. Acute pain serves to alert after an injury or malfunction of the body.

Chronic pain

Main article: Chronic pain

General physicians have only elementary training in chronic pain management and patients suffering from it are referred to specialists.

Chronic pain may have no apparent cause or may be caused by a developing illness or imbalance. This disorder can trigger multiple psychological problems that confound both patient and health care provider, leading to various differential diagnoses and to patient's feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Sometimes chronic pain can have a psychosomatic or psychogenic cause.[2]

Chronic pain was originally defined as pain that has lasted 6 months or longer. It is now defined as "the disease of pain."[How to reference and link to summary or text] Its origin, duration, intensity, and specific symptoms vary. The one consistent fact of chronic pain is that, as a disorder, it cannot be understood in the same terms as acute pain.

The failure to treat acute pain properly may lead to chronic pain in some cases.[3]

Pain management generally benefits from a multidisciplinary approach that includes pharmacologic measures (analgesics such as narcotics or NSAIDs and pain modifiers such as tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants), non-pharmacologic measures (such as interventional procedures, physical therapy and physical exercise, application of ice and/or heat), and psychological measures (such as biofeedback and cognitive therapy).

Main article: The psychologists contribution to pain management
Main article: Psychological research in pain management
Main article: Mindfulness and pain management

Pain management practitioners come from all fields of medicine. Most often, pain fellowship trained physicians are anesthesiologists, neurologists, physiatrists or psychiatrists. Some practitioners focus more on the pharmacologic management of the patient, while others are very proficient at the interventional management of pain. Interventional procedures - typically used for chronic back pain - include: epidural steroid injections, facet joint injections, neurolytic blocks, Spinal Cord Stimulators and intrathecal drug delivery system implants, etc.

Other therapies

Hypnosis as well as diverse perceptional techniques provoking altered states of consciousness have proven to be of important help in the management of all types of pain.[4] Some kinds of physical manipulation or exercise are showing interesting results as well.[5]

For pain management for particular conditions see:

See also


  1. Linda Lilley, Scott Harrington, Julie Snyder,. Pharmacology and the Nursing Process, 147, Saint Louis: C.V. Mosby. ISBN 0323024084.
  2. Sarno, John E., MD, et al., The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders 2006 (ISBN 0-06-085178-3)
  3. Dahl JB, Moiniche S (2004). Pre-emptive analgesia. Br Med Bull 71: 13-27. PMID 15596866.
  4. Robert Ornstein PhD, David Sobel MD (1988). The Healing Brain, pp 98-99, New York: Simon & Schuster Inc.
  5. Douglas E DeGood, Donald C Manning MD, Susan J Middaugh (1997). The headache & Neck Pain Workbook, Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications.

External links

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