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Types of Pain and "Living" with it

Types of pain

When we have pain that means something has happened and something is wrong with our body. It is important to understand what type of pain we are dealing with to understand how we cope with it. Here are the types of pain that physically impact us:

  • Normal Pain – pain that only lasts the amount of time you’d expect it to last. Such as skinned knee, a minor burn, minor ankle sprain, post-surgical incision site, a tension headache and labour and delivery

  • Acute Pain – short in duration, lasting minutes to about six months. Usually related to soft-tissue injury or a temporary illness. Therefore it tends to subside once injury heals or illness goes away.

  • Chronic Pain – is longer in duration and can be consistent or intermittent. Headaches for example can be considered chronic pain when they continue for months or years at a time, even if the pain isn’t always there. Chronic pain is usually due to a health condition, like arthritis, fibromyalgia or spine condition.

  • Neuropathic Pain – this pain is due to damage of the nerves or other parts of the nervous system. It is described as feeling like pins and needles, shooting, stabbing or burning. It can also affect sensitivity to touch therefore may not be able to feel hot or cold. Neuropathic pain is a common type of chronic pain. It may be intermittent or it can be so severe that it impacts doing anything difficult. It could also lead to mobility issues.

  • Musculoskeletal Pain – pain that affects bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves. It can be acute or chronic. Musculoskeletal pain arises from inflammation of the joints or muscles. Examples of musculoskeletal pain are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pelvic pain.

  • Radicular Pain – this is very specific pain when the spinal nerve gets compressed or inflamed. It radiates from the back and hip to the leg(s) by way of the spinal nerve root. You may experience tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. Pain that radiates into the leg is called radiculopathy. Also known as sciatica because the pain is due to the sciatic nerve being affected. This pain is often steady and deep in the leg. Walking, sitting and other activities can be impacted.

Managing pain

Finding the magic formula on coping with pain is sometimes the hardest thing to do. You have to figure out what treatment provides the greatest benefit. Some may be lucky that an over the counter option like Advil or Tylenol helps with what they are going through. Others may need a prescription recommended by your doctor or physical therapy for the target area that needs healing. For more chronic pain we need to explore treatments such as:

  • Physical therapies that may include exercise, hot and cold applications, ultrasound, traction, laser, electrical simulation, manual massages, suction cups or different types of acupuncture

  • Meditation and relaxation techniques

  • Injections into the targeted area

  • Surgery

  • Pain management by attending Chronic Pain Program

Living with pain

Sometimes after trying all the treatments there is nothing else out there that can remove the pain. Therefore it is now about training our brain to live life to the fullest even with the pain we are in.

I can tell you first hand that I have lived with chronic pain for over 35 years after a car accident caused me to have lower back injury that required surgery. And 18 surgeries later, on all different parts of the body, the pain continues. The great thing, most surgeries fixed the underlying condition of the pain. However anything to do with my spine, the pain is never ending.

There are days that I don’t want to get out of bed because I am so sore, but quickly remember that it is the bed that is causing me most of my grief. Therefore I get up and start moving. At first when I step out of the bed I have to hold on to the bed and wait until the blood flows down so that I’m able to walk. Sometime I forget and down to the ground I go because everything seems to be paralyzed. Once ready to go, I keep moving as much as I can all day. Sitting is one of the hardest things to do, therefore I set up a high table for my laptop and able to work sitting and standing. It is important to find what works for you.

If you continue to be in extreme pain and nothing else has helped, research if there are any rehabilitation clinics (chronic pain clinics) in your area. I attended G.F. Strong outpatient program in Vancouver and it really helped me focus on the importance of looking at pain control holistically. Such as making sure I pace myself, take the right medication, socialize to get my mental brain happy, sleep, and keep moving.

I’ve done some research and found this Strategy Wheel by UC Davis Health – School of Nursing in Sacramento California that helps us cope with pain and live a better life by following 11 strategies. Click on the wheel to take you to their website.


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