Wellbeing / 30 Jul, 2020

Understanding pain and its management

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What is pain?

Pain is a reaction that we feel when the nervous system is activated due to certain external stimulus. It is a general term that describes uncomfortable sensations in the body. Pain is highly subjective and can either be consistent or intermittent (meaning that it comes and goes).

There are many types of pain, commonly classified as acute and chronic pain. Acute pain means the sensation occurs suddenly for a short period of time, which may go away or progress into chronic pain. Chronic pain refers to pain that is experienced for a longer period of time, or that keeps recurring on and off.

Treatment for acute pain depends on the issue or injury causing the pain. Chronic pain can be more difficult to manage, especially if the cause of the pain is unknown.

In this article we will discuss the three major causes of pain, where they occur in the body and how they are treated.

Musculoskeletal system-related pain

Common causes of musculoskeletal pain are those which affect the spine and joints.

Spine-related pain includes back pain and neck pain, while joint-related pain can be felt in various locations in the body depending on the affected joints. Common causes of spine-related pain are muscle spasm, and cervical and lumbar spondylosis; whereas joint-related pain is usually caused by arthritis.

Diagnosis is usually made after imaging and necessary blood tests.

First line management usually involves pain medications and physiotherapy; while more advanced stages will need further intervention such as steroid injection and surgery.

Central Nervous System-related pain

The most common type of pain related to the Central Nervous System is a headache, with causes including migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches and hypertension. Rarer but more life-threatening causes of headache include subarrachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) and stroke, which can occur suddenly with severe intensity.

Diagnosis of the underlying cause for headaches can be completed through brain imaging, along with necessary blood tests.

Management involves correcting the underlying causes, taking pain medications and in some instances, if the headache is triggered by stressful emotions, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Cardiovascular system-related pain

One of the most worrying types of pain is that which is related to the cardiovascular system, such as chest pain caused by myocardial infarction (heart attack). This usually presents as acute pain that occurs suddenly, with or without warning signs.

Diagnosis of cardiovascular-related pain can be made through blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), treadmill testing and angiogram.

If you experience cardiovascular-related pain, emergency services are required to immediately support you and help with a better prognosis.

Importance of early detection

Pain can be caused by many different factors, which is why early detection of the underlying cause of your pain is so important. Speaking to your doctor about diagnosis and pain management can be life-saving. At Icon Health Screening, we are proud to offer a range of targeted services to provide you with the support you need. For more information, click here.

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