Frequently asked questions about understanding pain
Q. What is pain?
A. Because perception and tolerance of pain vary widely from individual to individual, pain is difficult to define and describe. Essentially, pain is the way your brain interprets information about a particular sensation that your body is experiencing. Information, or "signals," about this painful sensation are sent via nerve pathways to your brain. The way in which your brain interprets these signals as "pain" can be affected by many outside factors, some of which can be controlled by special techniques.
Acute pain is of short duration, usually the result of an injury, surgery or illness. This type of pain includes acute injuries, post-operative pain and post-trauma pain.
Chronic pain is an ongoing condition, such as back and neck pain, headaches, complex regional pain syndrome Type 1 (reflex sympathetic dystrophy), neuropathic pain (nerve injury pain), musculoskeletal pain, and pain related to illness. Your physician may refer you to the Steward Centers for Pain Management because your chronic pain condition has not responded to conventional therapies.
Treatments for acute and chronic pain are generally quite different. In some cases, pain can be stopped or alleviated by a single procedure or series of procedures. Sometimes, chronic pain is part of a widespread disease process, and the specific cause may be difficult to pinpoint. Once we have identified the specific factor causing the pain, we may be able to treat it so that the condition no longer occurs. In some patients, the specific factor causing the pain, such as cancer, cannot be changed, but we may be able to reduce the pain or help the patient to better cope with the pain through a combination of medical, psychological and rehabilitation techniques.
The Steward® Centers for Pain Management offer the benefit of a multidisciplinary team approach to the diagnosis and treatment of pain. The team includes highly experienced physicians (anesthesiologists specializing in pain management and other physician specialists), nurses, psychologists, rehabilitation specialists and social workers. The Steward Centers for Pain Management also have an active basic and clinical research program to ensure that the most advanced treatment options are available to our patients.