Pain Causes Painful Diseases

Unfortunately, certain diseases can cause people to experience a great deal of pain. Painful diseases include both cancer and shingles, among many others. When dealing with chronic pain due to illness, it is important to treat the illness and also to practice pain management techniques, which may include both medication and pain-reduction exercises.

Defining Pain

Pain is a relative term that describes a number of sensations, from a mild discomfort or annoyance to a debilitating, all-consuming throbbing sensation. While some people have a high tolerance for pain, others have low pain thresholds. Therefore, two people experiencing the same type of pain might react quite differently to it.

Types of Pain

Pain is generally categorized as one of two types: acute or chronic:

  • Acute pain occurs suddenly and is often described as a sharp sensation that emanates from a specific location. Acute pain doesn’t last for a long period of time.
  • Chronic pain is often less sharp than acute pain but lasts for an extended period of time. It can feel dull and can affect an entire area of the body. Chronic pain can also have debilitating emotional effects, leading to feelings of apathy and even despair.

Most of the time, the pain caused by painful diseases is categorized as chronic pain.

Painful Diseases: Cancer

Cancer is a disease that can cause pain in its various incarnations. Unfortunately, cancer treatments can cause pain as well. Therefore, an important part of cancer treatment includes a system of pain management.

Sometimes cancer pain is caused by a growth or tumor pressing on bones, tissues or nerves. Cancer treatment that shrinks the tumor may offer pain relief. When this does not help or if the treatment itself causes discomfort, pain medication may be required.

A variety of medicines are now available to help people cope with pain arising from cancer. The most common medications to help with severe pain come from the opioid drug family and include morphine, hydromorphone and oxycodone.

Painful Diseases: Shingles

Shingles, a viral disease that affects the nerves that lie near the surface of the skin, is another disease that can cause chronic pain. The symptoms of shingles usually follow this pattern:

  1. Shingles symptoms often begin as a slight tingling sensation on one side of the body.
  2. Several days later, a rash or cluster of blisters will erupt on the area of the body that is experiencing pain.
  3. In approximately 10 to 12 days, the pus-filled blisters will form scabs.
  4. In two to three weeks, the scabs will fall off, often leaving scars.

In some cases of shingles, pain will last long after the blisters have disappeared.

In dealing with painful diseases like shingles, it is important to see your physician as soon as you notice symptoms. With shingles, it has been found that immediate treatment with an anti-viral medication can significantly reduce the length and magnitude of the outbreak.

Diary for Pain Management

Many authorities note that in order for a patient to have a productive and helpful discussion with their physician about pain management, it is important for them to be as descriptive as possible. To help a patient prepare for this, it may be helpful for them to keep a pain diary.

In a pain diary, a person should note:

  • a description of how the pain is manifested (i.e., stabbing, general, throbbing, etc.)
  • how long the pain lasts
  • intensity of the pain (often ranked on a scale of one to 10)
  • under what circumstances the pain occurs (i.e., while bathing, while gardening, etc.)
  • when the pain occurs (date and time)
  • whether or not anything in particular may have triggered the pain.

Also include any pain relief measures you took and note whether they seemed to have any effect on the pain.

Pain Management Options

As stated earlier, a number of pain medications exist to help people cope with pain caused by disease. While mild pain may be helped with over-the-counter pain medications or mild prescription medications, in extreme cases of pain, a doctor might prescribe an opioid to help alleviate pain. When people experience chronic pain, opioids are often given around the clock, instead of on an as-needed basis.

Nerve blocks can also be employed in instances of severe pain. Nerve blocks work by interrupting the nerve function in the area where the pain is arising, thus blocking pain.

For shingles, anti-inflammatory medications, such as prednisone, can help ease some of the pain. Topical treatments like lidocaine can also make pain more manageable by soothing the surface of the skin.

Therapeutic activities can also help alleviate or distract from pain. These include:

  • acupressure
  • acupuncture
  • massage.

Pleasurable activities, such as listening to music or even bathing can help, too, even if they offer only incremental relief.

Resources

Cancer-Pain.org (2007). First Line Pain Medications. Retrieved August 28, 2007, from the Cancer Pain Web site: http://www.cancer-pain.org.

Mayo Clinic (2007). Shingles. Retrieved August 28, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shingles/DS00098.

National Cancer Institute. Understanding Cancer Pain. Retrieved August 28, 2007, from the National Cancer Institute Web site: http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/understanding-cancer-pain.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Shingles Information Page. Retrieved August 28, 2007, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders Web site: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/shingles.htm.