Pain is sometimes referred to as the 5th vital sign. This means that pain is a vital baseline data for assessing a patient’s general condition, along with pulse rate, temperature, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
Pain is an uncomfortable feeling - a signal from your brain that something is wrong. It is subjective, which means that the data can only come from the person who is in pain.
When assessing for pain, healthcare professionals usually elicit the following specific details to narrow down the possible cause:
What were you doing during the onset of pain?
What makes the pain worse? What relieves it?
How do you describe the pain? (Burning, aching, stabbing, pinching, throbbing, dull, debilitating, tingling, prickling, etc.)
Does the pain radiate elsewhere?
How bad is the pain on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the worst? In children, the Wong-Baker FACES scale is used.
How long have you been experiencing the pain? Is it constant, or intermittent?
Pain is generally classified into two categories, acute and chronic. Acute pain has a sudden onset and may be caused by a disease, an injury, or inflammation. Chronic pain refers to pain that has been going on for a long time. It may be intermittent, or continuous in nature and may be caused by many factors.
In order to treat pain completely, the causation of the pain must be traced. After all, pain is only a signal to alert you that something isn’t right.
There are many types of pain, and there is no universal treatment. Each type of pain may require a different approach. A pain management specialist can help you understand the differences:
Most pain disappears with time. Your broken leg heals. Your toothache is treated. Aspirin helps with the occasional headache. These are examples of acute, or temporary, pain.
Chronic pain is a condition that doesn’t go away after three months or longer. Examples include recurring conditions like migraines, arthritis, back and neck pain, and pain from injuries that did not heal completely.
You were playing football and landed awkwardly. You cut your finger while chopping vegetables. You had a car accident.
These are all examples of acute pain — pain that comes on suddenly and is mostly a result of an injury. It passes when its cause is discovered and treated either by the body itself, or with medical intervention. In some cases, however, the pain doesn’t go away.
Sometimes, injuries are not diagnosed or treated properly, later causing nerve damage, or back pain. Even postoperative pain that isn’t managed correctly can lead to chronic pain. It is important to treat your pain as it is a warning that your body needs help.
Examples of nociceptive pain are cuts, or broken bones. When you break a bone, for example, signals from the site of the injury are initiated and transferred through the peripheral nerves to the brain via the spinal cord. This is how we become aware that something is hurting.
Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage, or disease that affects the nervous system. Sometimes there is no obvious source. Classic examples of this pain are shingles and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. It is pain that can occur after nerves are cut, or after a stroke.
For patients requiring a pain management doctor, we have a convenient location in South Florida:
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.