What is pain?

Pain is a complex and universal experience that differs with individual to individual.

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience arising from actual or potential tissue damage [1]. In clinical settings, pain refers to what the patient says or experiences. The experience of pain depends upon the biological (e.g. extent of illness of injury), psychological (e.g. anxiety, depression, fear, guilt) and social (e.g. support, criticism or withdrawal) factors and thus requires its management accordingly.

In fact, pain can be considered a good thing, as it warns us that something is going wrong. It is the ultimate early warning system. Thus, pain plays a powerfully protective role and, in some conditions, it is essential to save lives as it causes the individual to seek for help. No doubt, without pain the world would have been a dangerous place!

There are two types of pain we can experience: acute or chronic.

Acute or Inflammatory Pain

Pain that lasts for hours, days or sometimes weeks is referred as acute pain. Most acute pain resolves itself within 7-10 days. Acute pain usually warns the patient about tissue damage, inflammation, an initial disease process or a surgical procedure [3]. It has been reported that acute pain is not being addressed adequately due to poor pain assessment and the lack of pain information [4].

Chronic or Neuropathic Pain

Pain which lasts for months, years and even for an entire life-time is referred to as chronic pain. Chronic neuropathic pain worsens with time and accompanies many common diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, AIDS, and fibromyalgia [3]. It may also accompany unhealed lesions or injuries of the body. Chronic neuropathic pain is a result of functional alterations of the autonomic nervous system. Chronic neuropathic pain requires physical input, such a microcurrent or acupuncture, in order to alter or change the nervous system into regulation. About half of the United States population suffers from chronic pain [5].

The State of Pain Management in Modern Medicine

The fact that pain is so subjective makes it difficult to measure, and difficult to teach. It is a well-known fact that the subject of pain management is not instructed in medical or therapy schools, further complicating and confusing the pain patient who cannot receive proper diagnosis or treatments because the professionals are unqualified and possess the wrong tools and skills. Therefore, in order to cope with biological, psychological and social pain factors it requires a huge multidisciplinary team approach including government agencies, health-care providers, non-government organizations (NGOs), educators, professional bodies, pain advocacy groups and support groups to manage.


  1. International Association for the Study of Pain. (1979). Pain terms: a list with definitions and notes on usage. Recommended by the IASP Subcommittee on Taxonomy. Pain, 6(3), 249.
  2. Dworkin, R.H., Jensen, M.P., Gammaitoni, A.R., Olaleye, D.O., Galer, B.S. (2007). Symptom profiles differ in patients with neuropathic versus non-neuropathic pain. The Journal of Pain, 8(2), 118-126.
  3. Fink, R. (2000). Pain assessment: the cornerstone to optimal pain management. Proceedings, 13(3), 236-239.
  4. Ferrell, B.R., Dean, G.E., Grant, M., Coluzzi, P. (1995). An institutional commitment to pain management. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 13(9), 2158-2165.
  5. Benjamin, R.M. (2010). Multiple Chronic Conditions: A Public Health Challenge. Public Health Reports, 125(5), 626-627.