Pain: Management and Treatment of Pain Image

Pain: It’s instantly recognizable no matter what its cause. Pain is a protective mechanism, alerting us to danger, illness and trauma. Severe types of pain, however, can interfere with quality of life and be truly debilitating.

Pain Management

Pain management is essential for many health conditions. According to the National Institutes of Health, more Americans are affected by pain than by cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined. Pain management plays an important role in many medical treatments, from chronic arthritis and headaches to palliative cancer care.

Levels of Pain

Pain management is complicated by individual responses to pain. While pain is universal, everyone experiences it differently. Individual pain thresholds vary: what causes excruciating pain for one person may be considered less painful by someone else. People report different levels of pain, even when causes and types of pain are identical.

Personal experience is the only way to measure pain. Pain cannot be measured by tests or viewed using medical instruments. Pain, in short, cannot be quantified. Medical professionals may ask people to measure their pain on a scale of one to ten. However, this scale does not measure pain, itself–it measures the person’s perception of pain severity.

Types of Pain

One main way of categorizing types of pain is labeling them either acute or chronic. Acute pain may stem from inflammation or injury and resolves when your doctor addresses the underlying cause. Chronic pain persists over time and is more resistant to treatment of pain.

Pain is a nervous system response. You may experience different types of pain, depending on which part of the nervous system is stimulated. Examples of different types of pain include:

  • Nerve pain: Pain within the nervous system; often produces a shooting, burning sensation.
  • Somatic pain: Pain in the musculo-skeletal system; often produces sharp, localized pain.
  • Sympathetic pain: Pain in the sympathetic nervous system.
  • Visceral pain: Pain in the internal organs; often produces a diffuse, deep ache that may radiate to other areas of the body.

Causes of Pain

Many medical conditions cause different types of pain, ranging from mild discomfort to unbearable agony. Some of the most common sources of pain include:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Muscle pain
  • Physical trauma. 

Treatment of Pain

Treatment of pain depends on the type(s) of pain involved, the causes of pain and the individual’s response to pain. Depending on the type of pain management needed, treatment of pain may involve over the counter analgesics or powerful, prescription-only opiates. Examples of pain medications include:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Anti-convulsants
  • Anti-depressants
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Aspirin
  • Corticosteroids
  • Ibuprofen
  • Migraine medication
  • Opiates.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation can result in successful pain management, while some types of pain may require surgical correction. Pain and emotional disturbances are closely linked–counseling and psychotherapy can have a positive effect on the perception of pain.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Staff. (2010). Pain: Hope through research. Retrieved March 24 2010, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Web site: 

National Institutes of Health Staff. (2007). Pain management. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from the National Institutes of Health Web site: 

Pain Clinic Staff. (n.d.). About pain: Pain types. Retrieved March 24 2010, from the Pain Clinic Web site:

Wrong Diagnosis Staff. (2010). Types of pain. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from the Wrong Diagnosis Web site: