Monday, September 19, 2011

Differentiating Between Types of Pain

Often, when a client comes into a legal firm to pursue a claim, they complain of pain as a result of an injury--such an auto accident or a slip and fall.  Initially, it may be difficult to tell whether the pain a client is suffering from will last, which is why so many people tend to wait a long time after an accident to start a claim for their personal injury. In this blog post, the three major types of pain will be discussed, along with differences between them.

The first major  type of pain is acute pain.  This pain traditionally lasts less than 3-6 months and is directly related to the area of tissue damaged--the faster the tissue heals, the faster the pain goes away.  Some good examples of this are burns, needle pricks, and bruising.  In this case, the medical focus is on healing the underlying cause of the pain, not the pain itself. 

The second major type of pain is chronic pain.  In this instance, pain is the primary medical diagnosis and is the main problem being treated, not another injury causing the pain.  Chronic pain is pain that persists over 3-6 months, even after other bodily injuries originally associated with the pain have healed.  In this situation, it seems that the body has created a new pain pathway.  Much less is understood about chronic pain than acute pain.

The third and final major type of pain is neuropathic pain.  A relatively new medically recognized type of pain, neuropathic pain seems to result from injury to the nerves that regulate pain, not an injury to the musculoskeletal system.  This type of pain could be mistaken for chronic pain, except that it tends to be much sharper, stabbing, lightning-like pain that is often found in the periphery of the body. 

Chronic pain is a disease and should be treated as such.  Historically, if doctors felt that there was no underlying cause for pain, then the pain must have been made up in the patient's head.  However, physicians are moving away form that idea and are now treating chronic pain as a primary diagnosis on its own.  Chronic pain is still not that well understood, and it may take a different combination of treatments and medications for effective pain management to be established.  As this is a relatively new field of study, there is much research going on in the field and doctors hope to find more effective and reliable treatments in the near future.

Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania.  For more on his career and firm, please click here.

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