Pain

Pain is our body's most important tool to inform us that something is wrong with us. There are several ways to categorize pain, but for our purposes we shall be classifying pain into the following 2 main categories:

  • Acute Pain Vs Chronic Pain
  • Pain Based On Location In The Body (e.g. Neck pain, Elbow pain)

ACUTE PAIN VS CHRONIC PAIN

One common way to categorize pain is by separating it into acute and chronic pain.

Acute pain describes any mild to sharp pain that comes on suddenly and lasts for a short period of time, usually between 3-6 months. It is usually caused when there’s damage to organs, bones or muscle. Acute pain can be brought about by numerous causes, but in some cases identifying the cause of the pain might not be that easy.

Some common causes of acute pain include:

• Cuts and burns
• Strains and sprains
• Headaches
• Broken bones
• Surgery
• Labour pains

Chronic pain on the other hand is pain that’s ongoing and lasts longer than 6 months. This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away, as pain signals in the body remain active for weeks, months or even years. It’s usually associated with an injury or long-term illness (e.g. Osteoarthritis), but in some cases the pain is 1 of the main characteristics of the illness itself (e.g. Fibromyalgia).

Chronic pain can be associated with many types of medical conditions such as:

• Headache
• Arthritis
• Cancer
• Nerve pain
• Muscle pain

PAIN BASED ON LOCATION IN THE BODY

Another way to categorize pain is to classify it according to the actual physical location in the body where the pain occurs, e.g. neck, back, hip.

NECK PAIN

Neck pain is a common medical condition that can involve any tissues in the neck. As the neck is flexible and supports the weight of the head, it can be vulnerable to injuries and conditions that cause pain.

Common causes of neck pain (as well as examples of associated medical conditions) include:

  • Muscle strains - Overuse of the neck muscles which triggers muscle strains resulting in neck pain. This can occur due to poor posture or spending too many hours hunched over your computer. An example of a condition with this characteristic is Upper Crossed Syndrome.
  • Worn joints - Just like other joints in your body, your neck joints also wear down and deteriorate with age. An example of this is Degenerative Disc Disease.
  • Nerve compression - Another possible cause is abnormal or excessive pressure on the nerves of the neck causing pain. An example of this is Spinal Stenosis.
  • Injuries - Injuries due to accidents or sporting/athletic activities can also strain the soft tissues of the neck causing neck pain, especially when the head is jerked backwards and forwards rapidly. An example of this is Whiplash.
  • Diseases and Infections - Certain diseases and infections are also known to cause neck pain as well. Examples include Osteomyelitis and Meningitis.

Besides the actual feeling of pain in the neck, other signs and symptoms associated with neck pain include numbness, tingling sensations, range-of-motion difficulties, dizziness and swishing sounds in the head. Sometimes the pain might be worsened when moving the neck or turning the head.

BACK PAIN

Back pain can occur either in the lower back or upper back portion of the body and is the leading cause of disability in people younger than 45.

Common causes of back pain include:

  • Lifestyle activities - These include poor sitting posture, wearing high heels or obesity issues.
  • Age - Wear and tear due to age. An example of such a condition is Degenerative Disc Disease.
  • Nerve compression - Abnormal or excessive pressure on the nerves of the back causing pain. An example of this is Spinal Stenosis.
  • Injuries - Injuries due to accidents or sporting/athletic activities. An example of this is in the case of Herniated Discs.
  • Diseases and Infections - Certain diseases and infections can also cause back pain as well. Examples of these include Ankylosing Spondylitis and Osteomyelitis.

Besides the actual feeling of pain, other signs and symptoms associated with back pain include dull ache, numbness, tingling sensations, “pins and needles” sensations and muscle spasms.

HIP PAIN

The hip joint can withstand repeated motion and a fair amount of wear and tear. But despite its durability, it can also wear down with age. Muscles and tendons in the hip can get overused and hip bones can also break during injuries.

Common causes of hip pain include:

  •  Arthritis - Arthritis leads to inflammation of the hip joint and the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions your hip bones. The most common types of arthritis that can cause hip pain are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Inflammation due to overuse - The hip tendons or ligaments can become inflamed due to overuse. An example of this is Tendinitis which refers to inflammation of the tendons (thick bands of tissue attaching bones to muscles).
  • Injuries - Injuries due to accidents or intense sporting/athletic activities. Examples of these are Hip Dislocations/Fractures.
  • Cancer - Tumors that start in the bone or that spread to the bone can also cause pain in the hips. Examples of these are Bone Cancer and Leukemia.
  • Other Causes - There also could be other possible causes of hip pain as well. An example of this is in the case of Osteoporosis, where bones become weak and brittle to the point where falls or mild physical stresses can cause fractures.

Depending on the condition that’s causing the hip pain, discomfort might be felt in the thigh, inside or outside of the hip joint, groin or buttocks. The pain might get worse with activity, especially if it's caused by arthritis, and some people might also develop a limp as well from persistent hip pain.

KNEE PAIN

Knee pain is a common problem with many causes, from acute injuries to complications of medical conditions. It can be localized to a specific area of the knee or be diffused throughout the knee.

Common causes of knee pain include:

  • Age - Wear and tear due to age. An example of such a medical condition is Osteoarthritis.
  • Injuries - Injuries due to accidents or intense sporting/athletic activities. An example of this is Patellar Tendinitis.
  • Inflammation due to overuse - Inflammation of the knee tendons or ligaments due to overuse. An example of this is Tendinitis.
  • Diseases and Infections - Certain diseases and infections can also cause knee pain as well. Examples of these are Osteomyelitis and Lupus.

Besides pain, other signs and symptoms might include redness, swelling, limping, difficulty in bearing weights, difficulty in walking up or down steps, and inability to bend or extend the knee.

ANKLE PAIN

Ankle pain refers to any type of pain or discomfort that is experienced in the ankles.

Common causes of knee pain include:

  • Age - Wear and tear due to age. An example of such a condition is Osteoarthritis.
  • Injuries - Injuries due to accidents or intense sporting/athletic activities. An example of this is when someone gets a sprained ankle.
  • Inflammation - Inflammation of bones, tendons or ligaments involving or around the ankle region. An example of this is Plantar Fasciitis.
  • Diseases and Infections - Certain diseases and infections can also cause ankle pain. An example of this is Gout.

Besides the feeling of pain, other signs and symptoms might include ankle swelling, bruising, redness, numbness, tingling sensations, inability to bear weight on the affected ankle and stiffness.

FOOT PAIN

Foot pain refers to any type of pain or discomfort affecting the foot.

Common causes of foot pain include:

  • Physical deformities or biomechanical conditions affecting the feet themselves. Examples of such conditions include Hammertoes and Bunions.
  • Diseases - Diseases caused by viruses, fungi, and bacteria can cause foot pain. And an example of this is Athlete’s Foot (fungi disease). Many systemic diseases affecting body are also known to cause foot pain as well, and examples of these include Diabetes and Lupus.
  • Injuries - Injuries due to accidents or intense sporting/athletic activities. A common example of this is a foot fracture.
  • Inflammation - Inflammation that involves the bones, ligaments or tendons in the foot. Examples of these are Achilles Tendinitis and Plantar Fasciitis.
  • Improper footwear - Wearing shoes that are too tight or high heels can cause foot pain as well. Poorly fitting shoes in the short term can cause blisters and bruising, while the long-term effects might include bunions, corns and calluses.

Besides pain, other signs and symptoms associated with foot pain include swelling, bruising, redness, numbness, tingling sensations, instability in walking and inability to put weight on the foot.

WRIST AND HAND PAIN

Common causes of wrist and hand pain include:

  • Injuries - Wrist injuries occur when a person falls forward onto the outstretched hand causing sprains, strains or even fractures. Hand injuries on the other hand include things like knocks and blows, landing on the hands during a fall or finger dislocations.
  • Overuse - Repetitive movements or overuse of the hands and wrists can cause the muscles, tendons and nerves to become painful, sore, or tense. This type of pain typically results from carrying out very repetitive or high-intensity activities for long periods of time. An example of such a condition is De Quervain's Tendinitis.
  • Arthritis - Arthritis can also cause wrist and hand pain and 2 of the most common types are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that covers the bones wears away and it can affect a wide range of joints including the wrist. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where healthy tissues are broken down by the body's immune system, and can cause wrist pain if the joints in the area are affected.
  • There might be other possible causes of wrist and hand pain as well. Examples include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (condition where the median nerve that runs through the wrist becomes compressed or squeezed), bone tumours and diabetes (by causing damage to the nerves).

Besides pain in the hands and wrists, other signs and symptoms include redness, swelling, bruising, numbness, tingling sensations, weakness of the hands and clicking sounds when moving the wrist.

ELBOW PAIN

Common causes of elbow pain include:

  • Overuse due to constant repetitive hand, wrist and/or arm movements required by many sports or jobs. Examples of such conditions include Tennis Elbow (occurs when tendons on the outside of the elbow are overused due to repetitive motions of the wrist and arm) and Golf Elbow (similar condition to tennis elbow except that it occurs on the inside of the elbow instead).
  • There might be other possible causes of elbow pain as well. Examples include elbow sprains/strains and arthritis of the elbow (occurs when the elbow becomes inflamed as a result of specific forms of arthritis such as Rheumatoid Arthritis).

Besides pain, other signs and symptoms might include redness, swelling, bruises and deformity of the elbow joint.

SHOULDER PAIN

Common causes of shoulder pain include:

  • General wear and tear - Shoulder tendons and ligaments can wear and tear as a person gets older.
  • Injuries - Injuries due to accidents or sporting/athletic activities. An example of this is a dislocated shoulder.
  • Inflammation - Inflammation involving the joints, ligaments or tendons in the shoulder. Examples of these are Tendinitis and Bursitis.
  • Diseases or Infections - Certain diseases or infections are also known to cause shoulder pain as well. An example is Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Besides pain, other signs and symptoms associated with should pain might include redness, swelling, bruising and the inability to move the shoulder properly.

TREATMENTS FOR BOTH PAIN CATEGORIES

Regardless of how pain is categorized, when it come to the use of alternative treatment and therapies to relieve or manage such pain, there are a number of options that can be considered or explored:

  • Acupuncture - Acupuncture is known for its ability to stop or significantly reduce pain. It is effective in relieving both acute and chronic pain as it lessens the pain response locally, relaxes the muscle around the pain source and stimulates the release of natural endorphins in the body that diminish the pain.
  • Cupping - Cupping is a practice that helps to rejuvenate the body and relieve pain and swelling, by detoxifying and “sucking out” all of the toxins from the body towards the surface of the skin.
  • Osteopathy - Osteopathy is a drug-free, non-invasive treatment that can be used to relieve pain by physically manipulating the muscles, joints and spine of the body, both on a superficial level as well as deeply within the body.
  • Massage Therapy - Massage therapy can be used to relieve pain, as it uses various massage techniques to manipulate the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons of the body (also known as the musculoskeletal system), thereby relieving the pain. Massage therapy is also known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, which will benefit those who are suffering from chronic pain.
  • Chiropractic Therapy - Chiropractic therapy is a common treatment that is used to relieve pain associated with the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons of the body (also known as musculoskeletal pain), through the use of chiropractic adjustments, manual therapy and rehabilitation exercises.
  • Physiotherapy - Physiotherapy is also another treatment that can be used to reduce pain and inflammation, through the use of various techniques such as electrotherapy, ultrasound and “heat and cold” applications.
  • Ozone Injection Therapy - Finally, ozone injection therapy can also be considered as another way to manage pain. It refers to the process of administering ozone gas into the body, which stimulates a person’s own immune system and encourages the body to heal itself naturally. This would in turn help to reduce or relieve the pain commonly associated with a number of illnesses.
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