Pain is not just a problem in and of itself. Pain is a symptom. Pain is the body’s warning system. It’s a signal from your body that something is wrong – just like a security alarm that buzzes when something goes awry. For example, if you step on a thumbtack, it is important to stop walking and remove the tack from your foot. Pain is the body’s signal that you need to take action. You can treat the pain itself, but it’s also important to know what may be causing the pain.
While pain that only lasts a short time may be treated and then mostly forgotten, chronic or long-lasting pain – like the pain associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic back problems and similar conditions – is an alarm that keeps ringing and ringing. You feel that the pain is always there, subsiding at times and suddenly worsening at others. Pain is not only a nuisance; it also may be a clear message from your body that something is wrong. The problem causing your pain should be addressed or the pain may worsen. If you ignore the pain, the cause of the pain may progress.
Each person experiences pain differently. For one person, a headache might be an annoying interruption to the workday, while another person might spend hours in bed with a cold washcloth on her forehead. Why? The intensity and nature of the first person’s headache might be quite different from the headache experienced by the second person.
In addition, each person’s unique psychological and physical composition – as well as gender, age and even cultural background, according to some researchers – may have an effect on how he or she perceives pain. This variance makes it even more difficult for health-care professionals to assess your pain and pinpoint the correct treatments.
The Arthritis Foundation’s Guide to Pain Management, by Susan Bernstein, copyright ©2003, Arthritis Foundation
The Arthritis Foundation’s Guide to Good Living with Osteoarthritis, copyright ©2000, Arthritis Foundation
To learn more about these books and for other pain management resources, call (800) 283-7800.