Why Pain Management?
 
What is pain?
 

It is the brain, not the point of injury that registers the sensation of pain. When you feel pain, it is really a reaction to signals that are transmitted throughout your body. These signals are sent from the pain source, through the nerves in the spinal cord, to your brain, where you perceive them as pain. This is important because it means that pain can be controlled by preventing the pain signals from reaching the brain. If the pain signals never reach the brain, you don't feel the pain.


Different types of pain

The origin of some pain is neuropathic, while other pain is nociceptive. This is important to know because different treatments will work better for each type of pain.

Neuropathic pain is pain that is caused by damage to nerve tissue. It is often felt as a burning or stabbing pain. One example of a neuropathic pain is a "pinched nerve."

Nociceptive pain means pain caused by an injury or disease outside the nervous system. It is often an ongoing dull ache or pressure, rather than the sharper, electric-like pain more characteristic of neuropathic pain. Examples of chronic nociceptive pain include pain from cancer or arthritis.

Some people experience mixed pain, which is a combination of neuropathic and nociceptive pain.


What is chronic pain?

Acute pain (such as spraining your ankle) acts as a warning to signal harm or possible damage to tissues in your body. It prevents additional damage by alerting you to react and remove the source of pain. However, when pain lasts a long time (over six months) and is not relieved by standard medical management, it is called "chronic" pain. In chronic pain, the pain signal no longer helps, but hinders your body.

Chronic pain may result from a previous injury long since healed, or it may have an ongoing cause, such as arthritis, cancer, nerve damage, or chronic infection. with chronic pain, normal lifestyles can be restricted or even impossible.

Many people suffer with chronic pain, unaware that there are a variety of treatment options that can help them live more normal lives.

If you have chronic pain, you should seek out information about these various treatment options. Because there are many new ways to treat pain, it is important that you speak openly with your doctor or with a doctor who specializes in treating chronic pain -- a pain specialist.


How common is chronic pain?

Pain is recognized as a major public health problem. In the United States, it is estimated that chronic pain affects 15% to 33% of the U.S. population or as many as 70 million people. In fact, chronic pain disables more people than cancer or heart disease and costs the American people more than both combined. Pain costs an estimated $70 billion a year in medical costs, lost working days, and workers' compensation.


Barriers to seeking pain relief

Many people with chronic pain don't seek pain relief, or even tell their doctors about their pain. Most often, the reasons for keeping pain a secret are based on fears or myths:

Fear of being labeled as a "bad patient." You won't find relief if you don't talk with your doctor about the pain you feel.
Fear that increased pain may mean that the disease has worsened. Regardless of the state of your disease, the right treatment for pain may improve daily life for you and your family.
Fear of addiction to drugs. Research has shown that the chance of people with chronic pain becoming addicted to pain-relieving drugs is extremely small. When taken
properly for pain, drugs can relieve pain without addiction. Needing to take medication to control your pain is not addiction.
Lack of awareness about pain therapy options. Be honest about how your pain feels and how it affects your life. Ask your doctor about the pain therapy options available to you. Often, if one therapy isn't effectively controlling your pain, another therapy can.
Fear of being perceived as "weak." Some believe that living stoically with pain is a sign of strength, while seeking help often is considered negative or weak. This perception prevents them seeking the best treatment with available therapies.