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.
More than 100 million Americans have chronic pain. If you're one of them, controlling it will likely require searching for treatments beyond medication.
That's because pain medication, while helpful, often cannot provide complete relief of pain. It may reduce but not eliminate pain.
Carla Ulbrich, 45, is willing to use medication to help control her chronic pain. But she sees it as just one piece of her overall plan. For the past 20 years, lupus and fibromyalgia have caused pain to smolder and...
Muscles, bones, and joints. It also affects the ligaments and tendons. This pain can happen from injuries or muscle strain. Health problems like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia also can cause it.
Nerves and the nervous system. This type of pain happens because of pressure on nerves or damage to them from an injury or a health problem. Sometimes pain occurs when something goes wrong with the central nervous system. Diabetes, shingles, and sciatica are examples of health problems that cause nerve pain.
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.
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This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 24, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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