Patients & Visitors

Pain Clinic

A17

About Pain

It is normal to experience pain at various times of life. Commonly, people experience pain after surgery or accidents, and this is often expected. Usually this pain is short-term (or acute pain).

However, pain can also occur without any injury. Most cases of low back pain, for example, occur as part of the wear and tear of life, perhaps made worse by bad sitting and lifting habits. Headaches are another very common pain that can continue on and off for a long time without injury. It is not uncommon for pain to have no cause that we can find.

Many pains like this are best self-managed, perhaps with help from professionals. If pain has continued for a time, usually taken to be three months or more, it is called chronic pain.

If pain is burning in nature, and the skin is very sensitive, it may be neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is often one-sided (or unilateral). It may be uncomfortable to have clothes rubbing against the skin, and some people even find the wind painful. Some neuropathic pains are quite common. Shingles pain, for example, is neuropathic. Usually this pain settles after a short time (this means that it is an acute pain), but sometimes it continues for longer, when it becomes chronic.

The longer that a pain continues for, the more likely it is that changes will occur in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to make it become chronic – whatever the cause was in the first place. This means that it may be important to deal with pain early, if possible.

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