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UNDERSTANDING PAIN

We have all experienced pain at some point in time – when burned; after stubbing a toe; or a shooting pain after lifting something heavy. Interestingly, although we can all claim to have experienced this unpleasant sensation, no two people experience pain in exactly the same way.1

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ExpandWhat is pain?
Pain can be defined simply as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience that may or may not be accompanied by injury or damage.1 What does this really mean? When we have an experience that hurts us or results in an injury, we feel it physically and it also has an effect on us emotionally. That’s why many children and even adults cry when they experience pain.1

Older people seem to experience pain more frequently. Women seem to recover from pain more quickly than do men and are more likely to seek help for their pain sooner. They are also less likely to let pain control their lives.1

ExpandWhere does pain come from?
The brain and spinal cord make up what is known as the nervous system. Both play an important role in how we experience pain. When you stub your toe, messages are sent from your toe to your spinal cord and up to your brain. The brain then interprets these messages then transmits signals to your toe that affect the way you experience the pain. The way the brain interprets the messages coming in and how it transmits the signals going out differ from one person to the next. This is why no two people experience pain in the exact same way.1,7

ExpandHow should I talk to healthcare professionals about my pain?
Pain can have a tremendous impact on many different aspects of your life. Not surprisingly, the goals of pain management are heavily focused on not only reducing pain but also on improving function, and enabling those who suffer to work, or perform other daily activities.1

There are several different healthcare professionals that may be involved in helping you manage your pain. There are nurses that specialize in pain management, as well as physicians, physiotherapists, osteopoaths, occupational therapists, and psychologists. Regardless of which type of practitioner or practitioners you see, their goal will be the same to reduce your pain and improve your quality of life.8

Do not ignore your pain.8
There is an old adage that we have all heard numerous times and have likely even used on occasion – “No pain, no gain.” This is simply not true.

As mentioned, pain, particularly acute pain, is a warning signal that something is not quite right. Either damage or injury has occurred or it may potentially occur. Pain is something that can and should be treated.8

Keep track of your pain.8
You may want to keep a diary of some sort to track your pain over time. This information will help you determine if it is lessening, getting worse, or staying the same. Sharing this information with your doctor can help him or her determine how to best manage your pain.8
1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Pain: Hope through research. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/detail_chronic_pain.htm#175033084, accessed June 8, 2012.
7. Canadian Pain Coalition. Is there a connection between pain, stress and depression? What can I do myself to lower stress? http://www.canadianpaincoalition.ca/index.php/en/help-centre/conquering-pain/stress-pain, accessed June 8, 2012.
8. Canadian Pain Coalition. How should I talk to healthcare professionals about my pain? http://www.canadianpaincoalition.ca/index.php/en/help-centre/conquering-pain/talk-to-healthcare-professionals, accessed June 8, 2012.