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Pain management is the definition of all the treatments and strategies an individual may employ in an attempt to reduce pain and reverse the deleterious effects of pain on their functional status or life quality. There are many options to alleviate both chronic and acute pain. Pain management, in the form of plans or programs, may include non-medical interventions such as physical therapy or patient education. This may require collaboration between health professionals such as pain specialists, nursing practitioners, and practitioners of other alternative therapies. This is termed the interdisciplinary pain management team. Plans may be the result of consultation between these people and the patient on the best therapies and treatment methods that can be applied to a particular case. Optimal pain management plans are often also dependent on the underlying condition associated with pain and the type of pain concerned.
Pain is the body’s response to noxious or harmful stimuli. Its function is to induce avoidance of external pain sources in an individual, or to alert an individual to damage or disorders of internal structures, such as bones or organs. It also results in other effects, including psychological and physiological responses. Some types of pain may result from dysfunction or damage to the nervous tissue that conveys information about noxious stimuli to the brain. This can lead to pain that persists long after the source of this stimulus has gone or is resolved; for example, after an injury has healed. This is associated with a variety of chronic pain conditions.
Other forms of chronic pain may start as a low level of pain that is only vaguely noticeable, but intensify over time to the extent that it significantly affects daily life. On the other hand, pain may have a more abrupt onset and resolve itself within a short time. This is known as acute pain. The severity of acute pain can range from mild to severe, but also warrants treatment. Some forms of acute pain may affect the risk of chronic pain conditions in the future. Acute pain typically lasts a number of days to weeks, whereas chronic pain may persist for a number of months or longer. Chronic pain is often related to decreases in mobility or normal function. Pain management often plays a vital role in the prevention of this.
Current national health guidelines suggest that pain persisting for three months or more may be defined as chronic pain. However, this can be subject to change, based on the specific condition diagnosed as a cause of pain. Research indicates that the effect on measures of functional status such as an individual’s life quality associated with chronic pain is significantly greater than that of any other similar factor. Many researchers and healthcare professionals regard chronic pain as a serious socioeconomic and healthcare issue. Prominent forms of chronic pain include back pain, hip pain, and headache-type pain. These affect millions of people in the U.S. every year.
Pain is a nearly universal experience. However, it is also very subjective, i.e. each individual may describe and perceive pain differently. This makes the standard classification and measurement of pain highly difficult, which is a challenge for many scientists. In addition, people may also exhibit considerable individual differences in the capacity to function and cope with pain. This poses challenges in the analysis of and proposals for treatments in pain research. Pain specialists and treatment practitioners also face these challenges, particularly when diagnosing a case of pain.
Pain that is untreated in the long term is associated with increased risks of significant physiological and psychological adversity. Pain may have an impact on many daily activities and functions such as the ability to sleep or eat. It can lead to functional and motor impairments in advanced or severe cases. Some studies indicate that chronic pain also has a deleterious effect on concentration, cognition, and memory. Psychological effects of pain include depressive symptoms, fear, intense feelings of helplessness, anxiety, impairment coping, and considerations regarding suicide in severe cases. Doctors and pain specialists should consider the possibility of these symptoms when assessing a patient with chronic pain. Members of the team of specialty physicians and other professionals may assess the need for psychological help. This team may include mental health professionals, physical therapists, pain specialists, other or alternative practitioners, and various types of nursing practitioners. This team can deliver a complete treatment plan or diagnosis for the patient in question. Pain management plans may involve one or more medical intervention therapies.