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Classifying Pain
Posted on Feb 25, 2013 | Tags: Daily Pain Tips, Chronic Pain

At The Pain Center of Arizona, our pain management specialists know that dealing with pain is never a pleasant experience, but it is one of the body’s most important communication tools. Pain tells the brain that something is wrong and needs attention. Though the experience of pain varies from one person to the next, it is possible to categorize the different types of pain. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types and what distinguishes them from one another.

There are many different ways to categorize pain. One way is by separating it into acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain usually comes on suddenly and has a limited duration. It's frequently caused by damage to tissue such as bone, muscle, or organs, and the onset is often accompanied by anxiety or emotional distress.

Chronic pain lasts much longer than acute pain and in some cases can be resistant to medical treatment. It's usually associated with a long-term illness, such as osteoarthritis. Chronic pain can be the result of damaged tissue, but very often is attributable to nerve damage.

Acute and chronic pain can both be debilitating, and both can affect and be affected by a person's state of mind. But the fact that chronic pain is ongoing and in some cases seems almost constant makes the person who has it more susceptible to psychological consequences such as depression and anxiety. At the same time, psychological distress can amplify the pain.

About 70% of people with chronic pain treated with pain medication experience episodes of breakthrough pain. Breakthrough pain refers to flares of pain that occur even when pain medication is being used regularly. Sometimes it can be spontaneous or set off by a seemingly insignificant event such as rolling over in bed. And sometimes it may be the result of pain medication wearing off before it's time for the next dose.

Pain is most often classified by the kind of damage that causes it. The two main categories are pain caused by tissue damage (also called nociceptive pain), and pain caused by nerve damage (also called neuropathic pain).

Most pain comes from tissue damage. The pain stems from an injury to the body's tissues and the injury can be to bone, soft tissue, or organs. The injury to body tissue can come from a disease such as cancer or can come from physical injury such as a cut or a broken bone.

Pain from tissue damage can be acute, meaning sports injuries like a sprained ankle or turf toe are often the result of damage to soft tissue. Or it can be chronic, such as arthritis or chronic headaches. And certain medical treatments, such as radiation for cancer, can also cause tissue damage that results in pain.

Nerves can be damaged by diseases such as diabetes, or they can be damaged by trauma. Certain chemotherapy drugs may cause nerve damage. Nerves can also be damaged as a result of stroke or an HIV infection, among other causes. The pain that comes from nerve damage could be the result of damage to the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord. Or it could result from damage to peripheral nerves, those nerves in the rest of the body that send signals to the CNS.

If you suffer from chronic pain due to any condition or injury, find hope at The Pain Center of Arizona! Our dedicated team of board certified pain management physicians will work with you to treat your pain, increase your functionality and quality of life, and get you back into life! We have locations across Arizona, including Phoenix, Anthem, Surprise, Mesa, Gilbert, Deer Valley, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and now Prescott and Tucson! We take multiple insurance plans; click here to see if we take yours! To make an appointment and take the first step toward getting back into life, call us today at 1-888-PAINCENTER. We hope to see you soon!

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

©The Pain Center of Arizona, 2013

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