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Pain is a hurting sensation that can range from mild to severe. It is our body's way of letting us know we have been injured, or that we are not well. Pain can be experienced in different ways. For instance, pain can be:

  • Steady
  • Throbbing
  • Stabbing
  • Pinching
  • A tingling sensation
  • A dull ache

There are two types of pain: acute pain and chronic pain.

  • Acute Pain is pain that arises suddenly, generally in response to a specific injury. Acute pain can be mild and brief, such as the sensation of stubbing a toe, or it may be severe and last for a period of time, such as with burn injuries. It may also be the result of surgery or other medical treatments. The source of acute pain is generally obvious and usually resolves as the body heals.
  • Chronic Pain is pain that persists or progresses over a period of time. Chronic pain can result from injury or medical conditions. It can be mild or severe. Unlike acute pain, the cause of chronic pain can sometimes be difficult to determine. The pain may be constant, or may come and go. Chronic pain can last for an indefinite period of time. For some people, chronic pain may be present to some degree for years or even decades.

For additional information, see:

What Causes Pain?

Receptor nerve cells in and beneath our skin sense heat, cold, light, touch, pressure and pain. Our bodies contain thousands of these receptor cells.

When our bodies are injured, or are not functioning properly, these tiny cells can send messages along nerves into our spinal cord and then up to the brain. The sensation is translated as pain.

Pain medicine and other treatments can block these messages or reduce their effect on the brain.

Chronic pain can be due to:

  • Medical conditions such as cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, migraine headaches, herniated discs, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropathy, sickle cell disease, neuralgia, and many others.
  • A tumor causing pressure on organs, nerves, or bone.
  • Poor blood circulation.
  • Blockage of an organ in the body.
  • An injury.
  • Infection or inflammation.
  • Side effects from some medical treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
  • Stiffness from inactivity.
  • Overuse of a body part.
  • Psychological responses to illness such as tension, depression, or anxiety.

Effects of Pain on the Body

Chronic pain is not harmless. Chronic pain can affect the body both physically and emotionally.

Untreated or unrelieved pain can cause or contribute to the following:

  • Feelings of weakness or fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Difficulty sleeping and disturbances of sleep patterns.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Mood swings, including feeling helpless, angry, irritable, anxious, depressed, or even suicidal.
  • High levels f hormones that cause stress on the lungs and heart.
  • Difficulty with concentration.
  • The ability of the body to recover from illness.
  • Disruption of daily activities.
  • Increase in depression, anxiety and social isolation.
  • Spikes in blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
  • Inactivity.
  • Loss of interest in normal activities, such as personal appearance, work, recreation, and personal relationships.