What is pain?

Pain is complex! It is defined as ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage’ (IASP, 2015).

Pain is definitely not as simple as we once thought! Pain can be categorised as acute or chronic. Acute pain is defined as pain that is short lived and lasts less than three months. Chronic pain is pain that has been occurring longer than three months.

Pain is created by the brain. Many things influence the pain that we feel. For example, if you were in the jungle and being chased by a tiger you would run for your life! If you roll your ankle in the process, you wouldn’t even feel it! The brain decides that pain in this instance is not useful! All you want to do is ruuuuuun and get to safety! If however you were at home and walking around the streets to get some fresh air, as you had just lost your job and had  fight with your partner, it starts to rain AND you slip and roll your ankle then it would probably hurt like hell!  Same injury, different feeling. Can you think of situations when you have had more or less pain than expected?

The following video is a fantastic 5 minute video which talks about chronic pain and explains some of its complexity. Not all aspects of the video are appropriate for everyone, however you may be able to relate to some of the things that are discussed? Think about what may be applicable to you.

The physiotherapists at Flex Rehabilitation Clinic have great training in pain neurophysiology. Physiotherapists from South Australia are lucky to be taught by some of the best pain scientists in the world. Explain Pain (http://www.noigroup.com/en/Product/EPBII) is an interesting and informative book, written by Dr David Butler and Professor Lorimer Moseley (both trained as physiotherapists), which explains the complexity of pain! This can be borrowed from Flex.


International Association for the study of Pain (IASP), (2015), ‘IASP Taxonomy’. Retrieved 1/8/16 from http://www.iasp-pain.org/Taxonomy.