What Is Pain?
Pain is a
general term that describes uncomfortable sensations in the body. It stems from
activation of the nervous system. Pain can range from annoying to debilitating,
and it can feel like a sharp stabbing or a dull ache. Pain can also be
described as throbbing, stinging, sore, and pinching. Pain can be consistent, can
start and stop frequently, or can appear only under some conditions. People
respond to pain differently. Some people have a high tolerance for pain, while others
have a low tolerance. For this reason, pain is highly subjective.
Pain can be
acute or can occur over a longer period of time. It may be related to a
specific injury or issue, or it may be chronic, with ongoing sensations lasting
for longer than three months. Pain can be localized, affecting a specific area
of the body, or it can be general—for example, the overall body aches
associated with the flu. With many chronic conditions, the cause of the pain is
inconvenient and uncomfortable, pain can be a good thing. It lets us know when
something is wrong and gives us hints about causes. Some pain is easy to
diagnose and can be managed at home. But some types of pain signal serious
What Causes Pain?
Some common causes
of pain include:
- muscle strain or overuse
- bone fractures
- stomach ache
or disorders, such as flu, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and reproductive
issues, can cause pain. Some people experience other symptoms with pain. These
can include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, depression,
When to See a Doctor
You should seek
medical attention for your pain if:
is the result of an injury or accident, especially when there is a risk of
bleeding, infection, or broken bones, or when the injury is to the head
- if an
internal pain is acute and sharp: this type of pain may signify a serious
problem, such as a ruptured appendix.
the pain is in the chest, as this could signal a heart attack
the pain is disruptive to your life, making it difficult to work or sleep
How Is Pain Diagnosed?
If you seek
medical attention for your pain, your doctor will first do a physical
examination and ask you some questions. Be prepared to discuss the pain very
specifically, including when it started, when the pain is most intense, and
whether it is mild, moderate, or severe. You will also be asked about any known
triggers, about how the pain affects your life, and about any medications you
are taking. The more information you can provide, the better the diagnosis your
doctor can make.
How Is Pain Treated?
Acute pain will
generally go away on its own once the cause for the pain has been treated. For
accidents or a specific injury, this could be once the injury or tissues heal.
The injury might heal naturally with time or you might need medication,
surgery, or other medical attention.
acute pain depends on the issue or injury causing the pain, if it’s known.
Chronic pain can
be more difficult to deal with, especially if the cause of the pain is unknown.
Sometimes chronic pain is the result of an initial injury, but not always. The
easiest way to ease pain is to deal with the underlying issue.
for pain may include:
pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen
or gentle stretching with deep breathing
pads or heat baths
packs or ice baths
injuries not requiring medical attention, follow the general rule of RICE
(rest, ice, compression, and elevation).