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Pain Management - Topic Overview

What is pain?

Pain is your body's way of warning you that something is wrong. If you step on a sharp object or put your hand on a hot stove, the pain lets you know right away that you are hurt and need to protect yourself. You may have pain from an injury, after surgery, or from a health problem like cancer, osteoarthritis, low back pain, headaches, or fibromyalgia.

Your body feels pain through nerves in your skin and organs. These nerve endings send pain signals to your brain.

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What are the different types of pain?

Pain can affect:

You can have more than one kind of pain at the same time. For example, cancer can cause pain in your bones and your organs.

Does all pain feel the same?

Pain feels different for everyone. Something that doesn't bother one person might feel very bad to someone else.

Pain can feel sharp or dull. It may throb or burn. It may be in one part of your body, such as with a headache or a stomach ulcer. Or you may feel pain all over, like when your muscles ache from intense exercise or the flu.

Some pain may be so mild that you can ignore it until it goes away. But other pain may be so bad that you can't do your daily activities without medicine or other treatment.

How long can pain last?

Pain may last for a short time or a long time. It may come and go or it may be constant.

Pain that starts quickly and lasts for a short time is called acute pain. Examples include pain from an injury, a headache, childbirth, or right after surgery.

Pain that goes on for months or years is called chronic pain. You may have this pain from an injury that doesn't heal or from a health problem like low back pain, very bad headaches, or diabetic neuropathy.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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