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what is pain management?
Everyone feels some kind of pain from time to time. Pain is the most common symptom of potentially thousands of injuries, diseases, disorders and conditions you can experience in your lifetime. It can also result from treatments for conditions and diseases. Pain can last a short time and go away when you heal (acute pain). Or it can also last for months or years (chronic pain).
Pain management specialists help you control pain with medications, procedures, exercises and therapy. To reduce or relieve pain, your provider may recommend one approach or a combination of several. You may receive care in a pain clinic, provider’s office or hospital.
Depending on the cause and type of pain, it may not be possible to find total relief, and the pain may not get better right away. Your provider will work with you to adjust your pain management plan so you can feel better.
Who needs pain management?
Anyone with pain can benefit from a pain management plan. A comprehensive plan can help people manage pain that lasts a few days (such as after an injury or surgery). It can also help people who have long-term pain from disease or chronic health conditions.
Pain is the main symptom of a wide range of injuries, infections and diseases. Cancer pain can result from nearly every type of cancer. One of the first signs of a heart attack is often chest pain that may move to your arms, back or jaw. Some of the most common conditions that cause pain include:
- Arthritis and muscle and joint injuries: Several types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and gout, cause severe pain in the joints. Orthopedic injuries (such as frozen shoulder) limit mobility and lead to pain and stiffness.
- Autoimmune disorders: Lupus, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune disorders cause your immune system to attack the body.
- Facial pain: Several conditions can cause pain in your face, including trigeminal neuralgia (TN), an abscessed tooth and other dental problems.
- Headaches: Migraine headaches and cluster headaches cause pain in the head and neck.
- Kidney stones and urinary tract problems: Kidney stones can cause severe pain when they pass through your body with urine (pee). Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) causes pelvic pain and pressure.
- Nerve damage (neuropathy): Damaged nerves can lead to pain, stinging and tingling. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common type of neuropathy.
What are the types of pain?
Some types of pain result from a disease or accident. Other pain may linger or come back after treatment. Sometimes, pain results from treatments (such as pain after surgery). Some pain has no known cause. The types of pain include:
- Acute: This type of pain is sharp and often results from an injury. Acute pain gets better when providers treat the injury or disease that’s causing the pain. This type of pain can result from a bone fracture, muscle spasms, a burn or other kind of accident. Some illnesses and disorders, such as appendicitis and shingles, cause acute pain.
- Chronic: Providers call pain that lasts more than six months chronic pain. This type of pain can result from an untreated injury or disease. It can also result from conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia or nerve damage (neuropathy). Low back pain is another type of chronic pain.
- Nociceptive: Nerve cell endings (nociceptors) send pain signals to your brain when you have an injury. Nociceptive pain happens when you break a bone, bump your head or pull a muscle. The pain can be sudden and short-lived or long-lasting. It can affect your internal organs (visceral pain) or your musculoskeletal system (somatic pain).
- Neuropathic: Problems with the nervous system cause neuropathic pain (nerve pain). It happens when nerves fire pain signals to the brain by mistake, even when they aren’t damaged. Diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS) and HIV commonly cause this type of pain.
What are the types of pain management?
There are many ways to manage different types of pain. You may have a team of pain management specialists (pain management doctors) who work together to help you manage long-term or severe pain. These specialists work in a field of medicine called algiatry.
Your provider may recommend one approach or a combination of several pain management techniques. These may include:
When should I see my healthcare provider?
See your provider if:
- Pain doesn’t get better, worsens or comes back after treatment.
- You feel anxious or depressed.
- You’re having trouble sleeping because of pain.Discomfort and pain are keeping you from enjoying your usual activities.
Living with pain can be extremely challenging, both physically and mentally. If you’re in pain, talk to your provider about a personalized pain management plan. Be open and honest with your provider about when you feel pain and what makes it better or worse. Tell your provider if you feel depressed or anxious. If pain doesn’t get better or comes back after treatment, talk to your provider. You may need to adjust your pain management plan to help you feel better.