One thing that nearly every person on Earth has in common is the experience of pain. Pain is a very complex issue, so this article will just touch on some points around the condition. Pain is defined as “physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.” As a result of illness or injury, pain will likely cause a person to have to slow down to prevent further tissue damage. This is the body protecting itself.
Pain is felt when a signal travels through nerve fibers to the brain for interpretation. Each person may experience pain differently, as there are many ways to feel and describe pain, which can make it very difficult to treat or control. Pain can stay in one place, or it can move around the body. It can be acute, which means it is intense and short-lived. Some examples of acute pain are a broken bone, a cut, a sprain or a heart attack. It can also be chronic, which means long-term and possibly life-long, for example, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and diabetic neuropathy. Chronic pain does not have to be constant; intermittent migraines are also a type of chronic pain.
Since pain is subjective, which means only the person in pain can describe what he is feeling, it is helpful if a person considers and can answer the following questions from a Medical News Today article when seeking medical care for it: the character of all pains, such as burning, stinging, or stabbing; the site, quality, and radiation of pain, meaning where a person feels the pain, what it feels like, and how far it seems to have spread; which factors aggravate and relieve the pain; the times at which pain occurs throughout the day; its effect on the person’s daily function and mood; the person’s understanding of their pain.
Additionally, it is important for a person to be able to rate their pain, which may be accomplished by several means. One of the most common means of self-rating pain is to rank pain on a “scale of 1 to 10,” with 10 being the most severe pain one has ever experienced. When a person is unable, for whatever reason, to describe his pain, one can watch for nonverbal communication that possibly indicates pain, such as: restlessness, crying, moaning and groaning, grimacing, resistance to care, reduced social interactions, increased wandering, not eating and sleeping problems. (Medical News Today, 2018)
Pain may be treated in many ways, from traditional pain medicines to other therapies, such as acupuncture, nerve blocks, manipulation, relaxation techniques, hot/cold therapy or surgery. Another evidence-based, accompanying approach to treating pain is called pain self-management, which can be learned through reasonably priced, self-study courses, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program: Tool Kit for Active Living (information available at https://www.cdc.gov/learnmorefeelbetter/programs/chronic-pain.htm) or by the in-person workshop, Chronic Pain Self-Management Program, which consists of six 2.5 hour sessions. This class is facilitated through the Buckeye Hills Regional Council (formerly Area Agency on Aging 8) who can be reached at 1-800-331-2644.
Leanne Cunningham is the Director of Nursing at the Meigs County Health Department.