What Is Pain?
The onset of pain is a symptom of illness or injury in the part of the body that is experiencing the pain. The sudden onset of pain is called acute pain. Acute pain gets a person's attention and prompts him or her to take action to prevent further worsening of the condition causing the pain. This could be a simple action such as the reflex that makes a person jerk their hand off a hot stove, or it could be more complex such as cooling, resting, or elevating an injured ankle. Moreover, the pain could prompt the person to see a doctor. Chronic pain is pain that persists over time (6 months or longer) and typically results from long-standing (chronic) medical conditions or damage to the body.
Pain interrupts our work, our recreation, and our relationships with our families. Comfort, that is, not being in pain, is one of the goals if a person becomes sick, and treatment by a health care professional for an illness associated with chronic pain is another goal.
Once the cause of the pain is found and proper treatment is started, the pain may serve the useful function of keeping the affected individual at rest so that the injury or illness can heal. But if the pain is from an illness that is incurable and will never heal, the pain loses its usefulness and becomes harmful. This type of pain keeps a person from normal activity, and inactivity decreases strength.
Common sources of chronic pain include injuries, headaches, backaches, joint pains due to an arthritis condition, sinus pain, tendinitis, or overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Chronic pain is also a feature of many types of advanced cancers.A number of symptoms can accompany chronic pain and can even arise as a direct result of the pain. These can include insomnia or poor quality sleep, irritability, depression and mood changes, anxiety, fatigue, and loss of interest in daily activities. Pain can trigger muscle spasms that can lead to soreness or stiffness.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/19/2014
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