What is Pain?

Pain is an unpleasant feeling or emotion that signals the danger of injury or damage to someone’s body. It is one of the body’s warning signals that indicate a problem that needs attention. Pain starts in receptor nerve cells located beneath the skin and in organs throughout the body. When illness, injury, or other types of problem, these receptor cells send messages along nerve pathways to the spinal cord, which carries the message to the brain. Pain can be anything from a slight headache to something excruciating and emergent. Simply put, pain is what hurts.

Most pain is temporary, fading away as the problem is fixed. Occasionally, pain outlives its purpose and becomes “useless pain”. This type of pain takes on a life of its own, and can be very debilitating. The reason for this is not always known.

What causes Pain?

Pain has many causes including illness, surgery, tests and injury. Sometimes, no cause for pain can be found.

Why is Treating Pain Important?

Treating pain is more than just making a nasty sensation feel better. Pain can affect your child’s ability to breathe well, move around or even eat normally. Pain can affect activity, sleep and energy levels as well as alter moods and make it hard for you to talk with your child. Pain management can help get your child home sooner by speeding up the healing process.

Blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature have been defined for many centuries as the basic “vital signs” that indicates good health. These vital signs are important clues for doctors to diagnose and treat illness and they also provide doctors with a simple, baseline compass to determine if a patient is ill. It is now recognized that pain is also a sign of illness. Pain can provide a useful tool for doctors to measure and monitor a patient’s state of health, illness, and well-being.

Pain scales are useful indicators for doctors to get a sense how much pain the patient is experiencing. They are also very important measures that can help determine if treatments are effective or simply not working to combat pain. Because pain is such an important part of diagnosis and treatment, the need for doctors, nurses and other health care providers to register pain as a vital sign is becoming a mandated part of medical care. These efforts are just one indication of the heightened awareness of pain as a potentially overlooked source of suffering. Adding pain as the 5th vital sign may help overcome needless suffering from pain that is treatable, if we are just aware of it.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is long standing pain that persists beyond the usual recovery period or occurs along with a chronic health condition, such as arthritis. Chronic pain may be intermittent or continuous. It may affect people to the point that they cannot work, eat properly, participate in physical activity, or enjoy life. Chronic pain is considered a major medical condition that can and should be treated.

What Causes Chronic Pain?

There are many causes of chronic pain. It may have started from an illness or accident, from which a person has long since recovered. Or there may be an ongoing cause of pain. Many people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of illness.

Common diagnoses seen in our clinic:

  • Back Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Joint Pain
  • Cancer Related Pain
  • Scar Neuroma
  • Pelvic Pain
  • Peripheral Neuropathies
  • Phantom limb and stump pain
  • Myofascial Pain
  • Central Pain States due to spinal cord, stroke and brain injuries

Chronic pain involves all aspects of a person’s life; therefore, the most effective treatment includes not only relief of symptoms, but also other types of support. A multidisciplinary approach to pain management can often provide the needed interventions to help manage the pain. Pain management programs are usually conducted on an outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the pain management rehabilitation team, including

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Nurses
  • Physical therapists
  • Psychologists/psychiatrists
  • Social workers
  • Case managers
  • Vocational counselors

How is Pain Treated? Terms to Know

Pain
An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience arising from actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.

Chronic pain
Pain that lasts for more than 6 months and may continue for the rest of the patient’s life.

Neuropathic pain
Pain that starts or is caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the nervous system.

Opioid
Preferred to the term “narcotic”; refers medications that relieve pain by binding to the opioid receptors in the nervous system.

Adjuvant
A drug that has a primary purpose other than pain relief (like an antidepressant or seizure medication) but can also serve as an analgesic for some painful conditions.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Characterized by pain, abnormal regulation of blood flow and sweating, changes in skin and nails, may involve swelling and color change to the limb. CRPS/RSD may or may not be associated with an injury.

Non-pharmacologic methods of pain relief
Non-medicine intervention or treatment for pain management. May increase sleep, reduce anxiety, improve mood and increase sense of control.

Cognitive-Behavioral therapy
Used to assist patients to change their view of their pain and suffering from overwhelming to manageable and to teach patients coping techniques and skills and how to utilize these adaptive methods.

Complementary therapy
Include non-medication modalities such as heat, cold, vibration, distraction, relaxation, used for pain management.

Tolerance
A process characterized by decreasing effects of a drug at the initial dose, or the need for a higher dose of a drug to maintain an effect.

Physical dependence
Physical reliance on an opioid evidenced by withdrawal symptoms if the opioid is abruptly stopped or an antagonist is administered.

Addiction
Psychological dependence; a pattern of compulsive drug use characterized by a continual craving for an opioid and the need to use the opioid for effects other than pain relief.

Blocks & Injections
Trigger point injection can be done in the office if needed for chronic headache. Blocks and injections such as lumbar sympathetic, stellate ganglion & epidural steroid injections may be used for diagnosis or to facilitated physical therapy and rehabilitation.

1 Children’s Way, Slot 203
Little Rock, Arkansas 72202
Phone: 501-364-2933
Fax: 501-364-2939