I’m glad that I was able to attend the 2019 Pain Management Conference. Every day, people encounter a problem that causes pain to the body. Through it, I have known that there are different types of physical pain; acute pain, chronic pain, breakthrough pain, bone pain, soft tissue pain, nerve pain, referred pain, phantom pain, and total pain.
Acute pain often starts suddenly and feels ‘sharp.’ It can be caused by many different things, such as an operation, a broken bone, or an infection. Most acute pain will go away when the reason for the pain has been treated, or the tissues have healed. If severe pain is not relieved, it may become chronic pain.
Chronic pain lasts for a more extended period. It’s usually caused by cancer itself, but the longer-term effects of cancer treatments can sometimes cause it.
This is a sudden pain. It sometimes breaks through when chronic pain is being well-controlled with long-acting painkillers. It may be brought on by moving or coughing. Or it can happen when the effect of the regular painkiller wears off. Breakthrough pain is common, but it can usually be successfully managed with short-acting painkillers.
If cancer is affecting a bone, it can cause pain. Cancer may have started in the bone (primary bone cancer) or spread there from another part of the body (secondary bone cancer). The pain may be a dull, persistent ache that doesn’t go away.
This is the pain we feel when our organs, muscles or tissues are damaged, injured, or inflamed. An example is when the liver becomes enlarged, causing pain and discomfort in the tummy (abdomen). Soft tissue pain is also called visceral pain.
Nerve pain is also called neuropathic pain. This is pain caused by nerve damage. It may be due to cancer or cancer treatments. The pain can often continue even when cancer treatment has finished. You may describe it as burning, stabbing, shooting, or tingling. There are specific medicines and treatments used to treat nerve pain.
This is when the pain from an internal organ can be felt in a different part of the body. For example, if the liver is enlarged, it can cause pain in the right shoulder. This may happen because pain messages from the liver travel along the same nerve pathways as messages from the skin. The brain confuses them and thinks the pain is coming from a different place.
This is when the brain ‘feels’ pain in a part of the body that has been removed. It can sometimes happen after surgery to amputate an arm or a leg, and occasionally after a breast is removed (mastectomy). Phantom pain may feel like cramping, stabbing, or burning, but can cause many different pain sensations. It is important to let your doctor or specialist nurse know about phantom pain because there are specific medicines that may help.
Total pain is a term doctors and nurses use to describe all the different parts of a person’s pain. This includes how the pain affects, and can be affected by, our emotions, behaviors, spiritual beliefs, and social activities. Your healthcare team will consider these things when assessing your pain. Tell them about any worries you have, even if they are not about your illness.