Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Pain management health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Pain basics

Pain can range from a mild discomfort to intense or throbbing pain. Pain can also be short-term, or long-term.

What is acute pain?

Acute pain is short-term pain that begins suddenly and is usually sharp. It serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body. Acute pain may be caused by many events or circumstances, including:

  • Surgery
  • Broken bones
  • Dental work
  • Burns or cuts
  • Labour and childbirth

Acute pain may be mild and over in a moment, or it may be severe and last for weeks or months. In most cases, acute pain does not last any longer than a few months and it disappears when the underlying cause of pain has been treated or has healed. Unrelieved acute pain, however, may lead to chronic pain.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is long-term pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks.

The physical effects of chronic pain include tense muscles, limited mobility, lack of energy, and changes in appetite. Emotional effects include depression, anger, anxiety and fear of re-injury. This fear may hamper a person's ability to return to normal work or leisure activities. Common sources of chronic pain include:

  • Headache
  • Low-back pain
  • Cancer pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to nerves)
  • Psychogenic pain (pain not attributable to past disease or injury, or to any visible sign of physical damage)

Chronic pain may derive from an initial trauma/injury or infection. Alternatively, there may be an ongoing cause of pain. However, some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.

How is pain treated?

Depending on its severity, pain may be treated in a number of ways. Options for the symptomatic treatment of pain may include one or more of the following:

  • Drug treatments: non-prescription medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, or stronger options such as morphine, codeine or an anaesthetic.
  • Nerve blocks (blocking a group of nerves with local anaesthetics)
  • Complementary treatments such as acupuncture, relaxation and biofeedback
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Physiotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Psychological counselling
  • Behaviour modification

Some pain medicines are more effective at fighting pain when they are combined with other methods of treatment. You may need to try various methods to maintain optimal pain relief.

 

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on July 30, 2014

Popular Slideshows & Tools on Boots WebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
humbug hard candies
Diarrhoea & more
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
cute dog
10 common allergy triggers
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
hand extinguishing cigarette
13 best tips to stop smoking
assorted spices
Pump up the flavour with spices
crossword puzzle
Help for the first hard days
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
adult man contemplating
Visual guide to BPH
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting