From acute pain, to chronic pain and neuropathic pain, when painful symptoms begin to affect you or a loved one, it becomes a priority to seek medical attention immediately to diagnose the source of the pain and begin treatment. But with so many types of injuries and/or conditions, it may often be difficult to know the exact cause without properly understanding the different types of pain and why they could affect you or a loved one.
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What are the different types of pain?
Knowing how pain is defined can be beneficial in learning how to control it even better. For the purposes of study and medical clinic, pain is usually divided into three categories:
Acute Pain is Often Temporary
Pain related to tissue damage, or pain that lasts less than 3 to 6 weeks, is known as acute pain. This is the type of pain caused by a needle prick or by a paper cut. Other cases of acute pain can include:
- Touching a hot stove or iron. This pain can cause an instant, intense pain with a virtually simultaneous withdrawal of the entire body part. More of the annoyance, a few moments after the initial withdrawal and pain, another kind of pain, is very likely to be experienced.
- Smashing one’s finger with a hammer. This pain is similar to that of touching a hot stove in that there’s immediate pain, withdrawal, and then a “slower” aching pain.
- Labor pains. The pain during childbirth is acute and the cause is identifiable.
When pain persists, it becomes even more affected by other influences, which may increase the individual’s risk of developing chronic pain. These impacts include such things as the pain signal continuing to get to the central nervous system after the tissue has healed, lack of exercise (physical deconditioning), a person’s thoughts regarding the pain, as well as psychological conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Chronic Pain Continues After Tissue Heals
The term “chronic pain” is normally used to describe pain that lasts over three to six months, or beyond the stage of tissue recovery. This kind of pain might also be termed “chronic benign pain” or “chronic non-cancer pain,” based on the circumstance. (Chronic pain due to cancer is more of an acute or acute-recurrent kind of pain since there’s continuing and identifiable tissue damage. There’s also chronic pain because of an identifiable cause, which will be discussed subsequently). For the purposes of the discussion, the term “chronic pain” will be used.
Chronic pain is usually less directly linked to recognizable tissue structural and structural problems. Chronic back pain without a clearly ascertained cause, failed back surgery syndrome (continued pain after the surgery has fully healed), and fibromyalgia are all cases of chronic pain. Pain is a lot less well understood than acute pain.
Chronic pain can take many forms, but is often put in one of two of these main types of its own:
- Pain with an identifiable cause, such as an injury. Structural spine conditions, such as spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease, may lead to ongoing pain until they are successfully treated. These conditions are the result of a diagnosable problem. Spine surgery may be regarded as a treatment alternative, if the pain caused by these types of ailments has not subsided after a couple weeks or months of nonsurgical remedies. This pain may often be considered as long-term acute pain, rather than chronic pain.
- Persistent pain with no identifiable cause. When pain persists after the tissue has healed and there isn’t any obvious cause of the pain which may be identified, it is often termed “chronic benign pain.”
It appears that pain can establish a pathway in the nervous system in some cases, getting the problem in and of itself. To put it differently, the nervous system may be sending a pain signal although there is no tissue damage. The system misfires and generates the pain. The pain is the disease rather than a symptom of an injury.
Neuropathic Pain Differences
In a third type of chronic pain, neuropathic pain, no signs of the initial injury remain along with the pain and may even be unrelated to an observable injury or illness. Certain nerves continue to send pain messages to the brain even though there’s no ongoing tissue damage or condition which could be causing the symptoms.
Neuropathic pain could be placed in the chronic pain group, but it has a different feel than chronic pain. The pain is referred to as severe, sharp, lightning-like, stabbing, burning, or even cold. The individual may also experience numbness, tingling, or weakness. Pain may be felt from the spine, down to the arms/hands or even legs/feet.
It is thought that harm to the motor or sensory nerves in the peripheral nervous system can possibly cause neuropathy. If the cause can be discovered and reversed, treatment may enable the nerves to heal, relieving the pain. But the pain can be harder to manage, and require more aggressive therapy, if medical care for the pain is postponed.
Treatment for neuropathic pain varies significantly in the procedures used for different kinds of back pain. Opioids (such as morphine) and NSAIDs (like ibuprofen or COX-2 inhibitors) are usually not effective in relieving neuropathic pain.
Drugs made for epilepsy or depression (anticonvulsants or antidepressants) often lessen the symptoms, and topical medications are sometimes valuable. If other approaches and medications do not offer sufficient aid, spinal cord stimulation, nerve block injections, and pain pumps might be considered for pain.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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