Pain: when the body talks Pain: when the body talks

The beginning of this warning sign is worthy of attention. When it comes to treatment, you have to learn to identify whether it is chronic or acute.

Advisor: Tiberio Álvarez, Anesthesiologist and Pain Relief Specialist

The manifestations of pain vary – it may tingle, itch, burn, cause discomfort and, often, it is inexplicable. The medical field is constantly working so that both patients and doctors learn how to identify, explain and treat it.

A single person may experience more or less intense, uncomfortable or unbearable pain throughout their life. This is why each individual is said to have a different pain threshold, which in short, is “A measure of a person’s ability to react to any stimulus. Everyone has a different threshold, which depends on many factors. Some patients may be weak because they have a chronic disease, and generally have a low threshold,” says anesthesiologist and pain relief specialist, Tiberio Álvarez Echeverri.

In situations like those described above, the specialist explains that some pain thresholds are so low that they are considered to be cases of hyperalgesia, which is an extreme sensitivity to pain that reacts to any stimulus, including touch with clothing, for example.

Types of pain

When a person begins to feel pain, it is because the body is expressing that something is not right, and it is important to learn to identify what causes it to know how to best explain it to a specialist.

There are two types of pain: acute or chronic. Acute pain occurs from one moment to the next and its cause is easy to detect and treat. Chronic pain occurs over time and is not necessarily curable.

“Among other causes, acute pain is caused by trauma, an injury, surgery, or a fracture, and is easier to treat. It does not cause as much depression as chronic pain and generally, after correcting the cause that produces it, there is hope for rapid recovery,” Dr. Álvarez Echeverri states.

In contrast, pain is considered to be chronic when it lasts for more than three months without relief; such as the pain that patients experience with cancer, tumors, arthritis or certain neurological diseases.

Although the medical classification for pain generally includes “an unpleasant feeling” in both types, sometimes people who experience pain also go to the doctor’s office without an explanation, which is commonly known as “psychological pain.” “Not finding the cause does not mean that the person should go without treatment. To relieve their pain, it is important to know about and offer different treatment programs,” says our anesthesiologist.

Explain and feel the pain

Because pain is a warning sign, Álvarez recommends getting a medical appointment as soon as possible to determine the causes. “For some, as we know, waiting for an appointment is not an option, it is an urgent necessity.”

Getting successful treatment depends on how the pain is explained during the appointment. It is therefore important to tell the truth, to try to clearly identify the type of feeling it creates and to identify when it began.

Answering all the doctor’s questions can help you identify the cause. “This is what is known in medicine as anamnesis, which is when the patient is questioned to gather information on when, where and how the pain began. Verbal descriptors arise during these conversations that help narrow down what the cause may be,” explains the doctor.

Similarly, Dr. Álvarez reminds his colleagues of the importance of palpating and of treating the signs of pain that come from touch, such as with facial gestures and groans, among others. “With patients who are in pain, you always have to be respectful and understand that for each person that is in pain, there may be suffering, anguish or fear”•

Throughout history

While different civilizations throughout history have researched the understanding of pain and pain relief, this study began to take a greater role in the mid-1960s, when the first clinics for treating pain were created. “Between the 60s and 70s, what you could call a ‘silent revolution’ in pain relief began, which has evolved to the point where today we can now talk about this area as a specialty field,” says Dr. Álvarez Echeverri.

Related:When pain becomes chronic