Pain Management Terms

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on March 13, 2024
2 min read

Acute: Description for a sudden onset condition that usually lasts for a short period of time, usually shorter than six months.

Addiction: A compulsive use of a substance even though the substance causes harm. Addiction is not defined by physical dependence or tolerance. Traits of addiction are loss of control, cravings, and adverse consequences resulting from use of a substance.

Analgesic: A medication or treatment that relieves pain.

Central nervous system: The brain and spinal cord.

Chronic: Description for a condition that lasts for a long time, usually longer than six months. It can be constant or intermittent. 

Facet joint block: Procedure that is performed to determine whether a facet joint is a source of pain, or as a means of pain relief. Facet joints are located on the back of the spine, where one vertebra slightly overlaps another. These joints guide and restrict the spine's movement.

Immune system: A complex system that normally protects the body from infections.

Inflammation: A reaction of tissues to injury or disease; inflammation is marked by swelling, redness, heat, and pain. In some cases, inflammation is not evident in chronic pain.

Nerve block: The injection of a nerve-numbing medicine into a group of nerves.

Neuropathic: Pain that is related to your nerves or nervous system.

NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen used to treat pain and inflammation.

Opioids: Narcotic pain relievers.

Palliative care: Palliative care is meant to offer relief to chronically or terminally ill people through pain management and symptom management.

Physical dependence: A condition in which there are withdrawal symptoms if a person suddenly stops using a substance. Though addiction may be accompanied by physical dependence, it doesn't have to be.

Prostaglandins: Hormone-like substances best known for inducing uterine contractions. Prostaglandins also serve many other functions, such as controlling inflammation and blood flow.

Stellate ganglion block: An injection into the sympathetic nerve chain in the neck used to relieve nerve-related pain in the head, neck, chest or arms.

Sympathetic nerve chain: A network of nerves extending the length of the spine. These nerves control some of the involuntary functions of the body, such as opening and narrowing blood vessels.

Tolerance: This condition occurs when the initial dose of a substance loses its effectiveness over time.

Withdrawal: The physiological and mental readjustment that occurs after a person discontinues use of an addictive substance. There are varying degrees of withdrawal.