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Pain 101

Questions

1. What is pain?

2. Are there different types of pain?

3. What are some common health conditions that cause chronic pain?

4. When should I see a doctor for pain?

5. How can pain be treated?

6. Can painkillers damage my stomach?

7. Should I try to wait out the pain before taking medication?

8. What are some other, nonmedication options for treating pain?

9. Do heat and cold treatments help?

10. What about massage?

11. Will acupuncture relieve pain?

12. Why is sleep so important for someone with chronic pain?

13. It hurts to move. Should I quit exercising?

14. Where can I go to learn more?

Answers

1. What is pain?

Pain is your body's way of telling you when it is being hurt or damaged. The pain is an alarm, telling you to pay attention to a problem. If you ignore pain, the problem may get worse.

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2. Are there different types of pain?

There are two types of pain. Most everyone has experienced the temporary pain brought on by an injury. This is acute pain—it disappears in seconds, hours or days.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, may start with an injury but continues after your body is healed. It may come and go, lasting months, years or even a lifetime. Chronic pain may also be caused by ongoing health conditions. Some cases of chronic pain have no known cause.

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3. What are some common health conditions that cause chronic pain?

Millions of Americans have chronic pain. Some of the causes include:

  • Arthritis.
  • Lower back problems.
  • Headaches.
  • Cancer.
  • Angina.

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4. When should I see a doctor for pain?

In general, you should see a doctor when pain lasts for more than a few days or is severe. In some cases, the earlier that chronic pain—and any underlying problem—is treated, the more fully you will recover.

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5. How can pain be treated?

There are a wide variety of treatments for pain. Your treatment will vary depending on the cause of the pain. Common treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  • Prescription drugs such as morphine and codeine. Antidepressants and anti-epileptic drugs also help relieve some types of chronic pain.
  • Relaxation therapy to relieve stress and tension, which may be intensifying the pain.
  • Physical therapy uses exercise and movement to help relieve pain and improve your ability to function.
  • Psychological therapy can provide support and coping techniques.
  • Surgery may be used when other treatments have failed to work. It may treat the underlying cause of pain—as when surgery is used to repair damaged joints that are causing arthritis pain.
Not every treatment works for every person. You may have to try different treatments, or a combination of treatments, before finding what works for you. Your doctor will help you make a pain management plan. If it doesn't work at first, don't give up; talk to your doctor about other options.

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6. Can painkillers damage my stomach?

Yes. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, may cause bleeding in your stomach. Aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen are types of NSAIDS. People with stomach problems such as ulcers should talk to their doctors about other pain relief options.

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7. Should I try to wait out the pain before taking medication?

No. If you wait to take the medicine, the pain may be harder to control.

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8. What are some other nonmedication options for treating pain?

Medication may not be the answer for every person dealing with pain. Other methods, such as acupuncture, massage, and heat and cold treatments may be good alternatives. Talk to your doctor about which alternative treatments could work for you.

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9. Do heat and cold treatments help?

Heat and cold treatments may help certain types of pain, such as arthritis and headaches. Talk to your doctor before trying these treatments—they may not be suitable if you have other health problems, such as poor circulation.

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10. What about massage?

Massage may help ease some types of pain. For example, it may reduce arthritis pain by increasing blood flow and warmth in the painful area.

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11. Will acupuncture relieve pain?

Acupuncture can provide pain relief for some people. The evidence is conflicting on whether it relieves chronic pain well, according to the National Institutes of Health. But it has been helpful for some people dealing with pain from headaches and lower back pain.

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12. Why is sleep so important for someone with chronic pain?

Pain can make you feel irritable and depressed. If you aren't getting enough sleep, fatigue can magnify your feelings and create a vicious circle of pain, depression and sleeplessness.

To improve your sleep, try avoiding alcohol, which can disrupt your sleep, and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. Regular exercise may help you sleep better. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, may also help you get rid of stress and worrisome thoughts that can interfere with sleep.

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13. It hurts to move. Should I quit exercising?

Your ability to exercise will depend on the cause of your pain. You should discuss an exercise program with your doctor. In general, exercise is important for people with chronic pain. It increases mobility, flexibility and circulation.

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14. Where can I go to learn more?

To learn more about pain and how to manage it, visit the Pain health topic center. You can also read more at this website:

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reviewed 3/12/2019

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