Pain is normal and affects everyone from time to time. It protects us and warns us of danger usually before an injury happens. Sometimes we hardly notice pain and sometimes it can be unbearable. The cause is often obvious and easy to understand, like tissue damage from a broken bone, cut, strain or bruise. It can cause us to move differently, think differently and behave differently. Healing usually takes place in less than three months and specific medical treatments can sometimes be helpful. This is acute pain.
Quite often, the pain may not go away, even when tissues have fully healed. At this point, the pain has no purpose and specific medical treatments are often no longer helpful. Even though it might feel the same as acute pain, it does not indicate ongoing tissue damage. Instead, the pain is less to do with injury or tissue damage and more to do with our central nervous system. In other words, the pain has become more complex and more difficult to understand than acute pain. This is persistent pain. It is also known as chronic pain.
It is important to consider causes of pain that may benefit from traditional pain relieving treatments. However, it is equally important to support people living with persistent pain who can no longer benefit from these treatments and for whom a cure or ‘fix’ is unlikely. This can be difficult for a person to accept but, with the right support, they can help themselves live life better with less impact from pain on mood, relationships with family and friends and their ability to work or relax.