Types of pain and palliative care

Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensation both physically and emotionally.

woman-lower-back-pain-lgnPain that is from the organs is called visceral pain. It is pain that results from the activation of nociceptors of the thoracic, pelvic, or abdominal viscera (organs). Visceral structures are highly sensitive to distension (stretch), ischemia and inflammation, but relatively insensitive to other stimuli that normally evoke pain such as cutting or burning. Visceral pain is diffuse, difficult to localize and often referred to a distant, usually superficial, structure. It may be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomit, changes in vital signs as well as emotional manifestations.

All other pain is termed somatic in nature.  Somatic pain is also a type of nociceptive pain.  However, unlike visceral pain, the nerves that detect somatic pain are located in the skin and deep tissues. These specialized nerves, called nociceptors, pick up sensations related to temperature, vibration and swelling in the skin, joints and muscles.

If you cut your skin, the pain you experience is somatic pain. You also experience somatic pain if you stretch a muscle too far or exercise for a long period of time. Nociceptors send impulses to the brain when they detect some kind of tissue damage.

Pain can also be classified as acute and chronic.

Acute pain begins suddenly and is usually sharp in quality. It serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body. Acute pain might be caused by many events or circumstances, including:

  • Surgery
  • Broken bones
  • Dental work
  • Burns or cuts
  • Labor and childbirth

Acute pain might be mild and last just a moment, or it might be severe and last for weeks or months. In most cases, acute pain does not last longer than six months, and it disappears when the underlying cause of pain has been treated or has healed. Unrelieved acute pain, however, might lead to chronic pain.

Continuous pain is called chronic pain and presents as prolonged pain and  afflicts elders and people who suffer from chronic ailments like Arthritis, renal disease, liver disease, immune disorders, musculo-skeletal diseases, neurological conditions, diabetic neuropathy etc.  Physical effects include tense muscles, limited mobility, a lack of energy, and changes in appetite. Emotional effects include depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury. Such a fear might hinder a person’s ability to return to normal work or leisure activities.

Chronic pain can persist despite the fact that the injury has healed. Pain signals can remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years.

Complete pain relief  can be attained only when the underlying physiological problem is treated and the psychological aspects associated with the pain are addressed.

Palliative Care gives pain relief to patients with advanced and beyond cure diseases like cancer. It’s a medical approach that gives holistic care and is aimed at  providing total relief.

Freedom from pain is basic human right.



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