Definitions of Pain
There are numerous different definitions for pain. The most widely accepted definition of pain is the one used by The International Association for the Study of Pain. It defines pain as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience arising from actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.”
The Web version of the Encyclopedia Britannica defines pain as – “A complex experience consisting of a physiological (bodily) response to a noxious stimulus followed by an affective (emotional) response to that event. Pain is a warning mechanism that helps to protect an organism by influencing it to withdraw from harmful stimuli. It is primarily associated with injury or the threat of injury, to bodily tissues.”
The American Academy of Pain Medicine defines pain as – “An unpleasant sensation and an emotional response to that sensation.”
The definition of pain that some believe is the most appropriate for use in clinical practice was given by Margo McCaffrey in 1968. He defined pain as “whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does.”
Pain Is a Signal That Communicates Information
The easiest way to understand pain is to recognize that every time you feel pain your body is attempting to tell you that something is wrong. Pain sensations are critical to human survival. Without pain you would have no way of knowing that something is wrong with your body. So without pain you would be unable to take action to correct the problem or situation that is causing your pain.
What Is Your Pain Trying To Tell You?
Whenever you are experiencing pain, it’s always helpful to ask: “What is my pain trying to tell me?” I believe that pain is trying to tell you that something is wrong and that you had better find out what exactly is wrong and find a way to fix it.
To understand the language of pain, you must learn to understand how the pain echoes and reverberates between the physical, psychological, and social dimensions of the human condition. Pain is truly a total human experience that affects all aspects of human functioning.
Knowledge is power
Once you know what is really going on with your body and mind you can start to take action to effectively manage your pain. In fact, you need to stop believing pain is your enemy and begin to embrace it as your friend. I know this is easier said than done. Many of my patients have looked at me like I’m crazy when I tell them they must make peace with their pain and that pain is their friend. They tell me—very strongly in some cases—that they can’t buy it, but nevertheless it is true.
When you are willing to consider that your pain can be more of an ally than an enemy, the next step to developing an effective chronic pain management plan is to learn all you can about your pain and how to intervene in an appropriate way that continually improves the quality of your life.
Effective chronic pain management systematically approaches the treatment of pain at all three levels (bio-psycho-social) simultaneously. This means using physical treatments to reduce the intensity of your physical pain. It also means using psychological treatments to identify and change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are making your pain more intense and replacing them with positive thinking, as well as feeling and behavior management skills that can reduce the intensity of your pain.
Finally, effective pain management must involve not only you, but also the significant people in your life who can help you to develop a social and cultural context in which to experience your pain in a way that will reduce or even eliminate suffering.
To learn more about using a team approach for more effective chronic pain management please check out my article The Need for Multidisciplinary Chronic Pain Management that you can download for free on our Article page.
You can learn more about the Addiction-Free Pain Management® System at our website www.addiction-free.com. If you or a loved one is undergoing chronic pain management, especially if you’re in recovery or believe you may have a medication or other mental health problem and you want to learn more effective chronic pain management tools, please go to our Publications page and check out my books; especially the Addiction-Free Pain Management® Recovery Guide: Managing Pain and Medication in Recovery. To purchase this book please Click Here.
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