Pain management

Types of pain, causes and treatment

Pain can be difficult to determine – after all, it’s a subjective feeling and everyone experiences it a bit differently. Fortunately, medicine provides expressions that help identify the types of pain. Pain treatment is not just about pharmaceuticals – sometimes “natural” ways can be used to fight it.

What is pain?

Pain is a subjective feeling that occurs in our consciousness. Most often it is caused by harmful stimuli, but it happens that something hurts even without their participation. The perception of pain is different in every human being – it depends not only on the given stimulus, but also on the state of health, previous expectations or emotions at a given moment. It happens that our body reacts to pain, for example, by increasing blood pressure, but we do not consciously feel pain. Thus, it can be seen that pain is an extremely complex phenomenon that can not be closed in a short, rigid classification.

It is worth knowing that long-lasting, chronic pain is not only a side effect but a disorder in itself. The patient has the right to heal the pain – it does not have to, and even can not be so, that it always “hurts” a bit. Modern medicine offers many methods of pain treatment – there are even special pain treatment clinics funded by the NFZ. They often operate at oncological centers.

The pain recognizes pain receptors – these are the so-called nociceptors. They react to stimuli that damage tissues. These can be various types of stimuli – mechanical, thermal, electrical or chemical. Irritation of nociceptors can trigger defense mechanisms, for example reflexes. We wrote more about the receptors here.

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Types of pain

Pain can be determined on the basis of many criteria. We give the ones that are most often used by both patients and doctors.

the frequency with which it occurs

Episodic pain is known to most of us. It is one that occurs from time to time and does not necessarily mean a chronic disease. It is, for example, a sore throat or ear due to infection or headaches. Chronic pain is a sign of long illness – it lasts longer than three months.

duration of pain

This is probably one of the easiest to name the category of pain. We distinguish wave pain (pulsating), which comes in just waves – intensifies, then weakens and so on. His strength is variable. The constant pain remains constant throughout its occurrence. There is still piercing pain, i.e. one that comes suddenly and overly; patients assess it as medium or large. Attacks occur despite the treatment of chronic pain.

location of pain

We can also classify pain because of the place in which it occurs. These are first neuralgia (neuralgia), i.e. such ailments that arise due to damage or irritation of peripheral nerves. Neuralgia “tears” and radiates.

Bone pain usually arises as a result of an injury, especially when we move. Pain in muscles, skin and joints – generally soft tissues – are caused by inflammation. They also intensify at the moment of movement, they are also sensitive to touch.

Spilled pain, as the name suggests, applies to a large area; the patient is unable to indicate its source. However, visceral pain results from diseases of internal organs. Transferred (projected) pains are those that we feel elsewhere than the actual source of pain.

cause of pain

It is a look from the strictly biological point of view. Scientists distinguish here receptor (nociceptive) pain, which results from irritation of sensory nerve receptors. They also speak about non-receptor (neuropathic) pain, which is the result of pressure or destruction of nervous system structures. For example, pain after surgery in the scar site, as a result of spinal injury or phantom pain. We must also mention psychogenic pain, that is, one that is born on a psychological background. The patient has pain that does not have a physical source.

There are words that we often use to describe pain. They are metaphorical and have no direct impact on the cause of the ailment. They usually come in the form of adjectives. And so, patients often say, for example, about pain that is burning, rushing or oppressive. Although “intangible” physically, these expressions also help the doctor to assess the patient’s condition.

How do doctors assess pain?

Pain assessment is primarily done through a detailed interview with the patient. For example, doctors use the visual-analogue (visual) scale. On the ten-centimeter line, the patient shows the most adequate number to his pain. Zero means no pain, and ten very strong pain – the strongest that the patient can imagine. The method is also used without a ruler; we simply evaluate the pain from zero to ten. Very often we also use the verbal scale; we define pain as weak, moderate, strong or “unbearable”.

Sometimes doctors use a tool called a dolorimeter. It allows you to measure the concentration of pain in a given place. The doctor sets the pressure and then slowly increases it. The dolorimeter is used particularly frequently when suspicion of fibromyalgia (fibromyalgia), or generalized pain syndrome.

The most common causes of pain

Pain can have a lot of causes. The most common are injuries and burns, diseases of the viscera – appendicitis, rupture of ulcers, pancreatitis. Patients often also have coronary pain. Pain, of course, also affects cancer and other complex, serious diseases. We distinguish, among others, rheumatic, migraine, traumatic, phantom pain … The list is unfortunately very long.

What’s more about the causes of pain, which most often trouble us:

  • Why does my stomach hurt? Show where it hurts and we’ll suggest
  • Do you have a headache? We give tips about what may be the reason
  • The perpetrator of back pain does not have to be a sick spine!

Pain and cancer

A separate chapter is pain in cancer. The concept of total pain is used here. Total pain – or all-encompassing – accompanies oncological patients not only in the aspect of physical pain; one speaks of psychophysical pain, that is, one whose causes are also “spiritual” and social. Cancer disease changes life in many respects; it means not only bodily changes but also depression, fear, sense of isolation or financial problems.

Of course, the main cause of pain is the cancer process itself. However, long-term treatment also plays a role here. Unfortunately, in spite of the still improving medical care of oncological patients, the pain during the therapy is felt by most of them. Surgical procedures, chemotherapy or radiotherapy damage, among others, peripheral nerves. Pain is also associated with the destruction of the body by the tumor.

The pain in oncological diseases may be acute, however, the most common are chronic pain with moments of severity. Only 1/4 of oncological patients experience one type of pain – the majority experience at least two.

The piercing pain is characteristic for cancer. It is a sharp, paroxysmal pain that rapidly increases and passes relatively quickly. The frequency of attacks is not related to the degree of disease development, gender or age. Usually, the attacks of pain suddenly appear and can not be predicted. However, they can accompany certain moments – dressing changes, violent movements, sharper cough, intensified emotions. Breast pain is usually treated by emergency doses. These are additional amounts of a painkiller that is given when the condition is present.

Oncological patients also experience end-of-dose pain. It occurs before the next dose of the drug. It is caused by either a too low dose of the drug or after long intervals between the administration of the pharmaceutical. In these situations, the doctor usually increases the basic dose of the drug or shortens interruptions in its administration. Ad hoc additional doses should not be given because it will have a one-off effect.

More key information about cancers:

  • Cancer and cancer are not the same. Division and nomenclature of tumors
  • What are the symptoms of cancer? It is worth asking the doctor as soon as possible
  • Malignant tumor – definition, classification and treatment

How to deal with pain? Pain treatment

The treatment of pain depends on its type and cause. There is no need to explain that others will be with ordinary headaches and others with oncological treatment. Most often it is based on pharmacotherapy. In addition, various methods of non-pharmacological treatment are also used – such as surgery, rehabilitation, psychotherapy … There are many ways, but everyone needs to consult a doctor and not give up pharmacotherapy if the doctor recommends it.