What are the main types of pain?
If someone breaks into your home or there is a fire, an alarm may ring to warn you and the neighbors of a problem. Pain is an alarm system where the body tells the brain there is an injury or dysfunction. Under normal circumstances, the nervous system takes a message from the site of the injury to your brain. This is helpful because it tells you where the problem is so you can get it fixed. Doctors have divided pain into broad types:
This is an injury or disease causing short-term pain, but the injury will heal or treatment will cure the disease. That means the pain will go away on its own.
The underlying cause of the pain is not going to respond to treatment. It will continue to cause pain for the indefinite future.
This is where the source of the pain is easily located, i.e. the nerve endings clearly signal the source of the problem. This is most often acute as in a cut or broken bones, but can be visceral, i.e. caused by damage to internal organs. Some diseases and disorders like arthritis may cause chronic pain.
This is pain caused by damage to the nervous system itself and is more usually chronic, e.g. as in diabetes. When the nervous system is damaged, it may not signal so accurately where the source of the problem lies. So people may experience pains in parts of their bodies where there is no real cause.
What are the main types of treatment?
There is increasing pressure on the medical profession to treat chronic pain as a disease in its own right and to devote teams of specialists to counsel and advise people how to get the best results when pain disrupts their quality of life. This is holistic care, treating the person as an individual and not as an interesting collection of symptoms.
The diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause
Where the cause of the pain is treatable, giving that treatment reduces and, hopefully, eliminates the pain.
While treatment of the underlying cause of the pain is proceeding, over-the-counter or prescription drugs will help keep the pain under control. In a hospital, these drugs can be administered as injections which take effect more quickly. In more serious cases, some doctors permit their patients control over the dosage by giving them a button on a computerised pump.
Physical therapy and alternative forms of treatment
Massage and the manipulation of joints and the soft tissues is effective in improving mobility, reducing inflammation and lifting mood. There are also a range of alternative treatments ranging from the use of machines like TENS which uses electrical current to control pain, acupuncture, and meditation and relaxation techniques.
Alongside physical therapy, it is important to offer counseling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — CBT teaches coping strategies so that people can learn new skills to recover their quality of life without becoming dependent on painkillers.