Caring Web

Managing Pain

Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something may be wrong. It is something we feel individually, so depending on how we respond to pain, other people may or may not know that we are in pain.

painAcute Pain

It is an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience (a hurt that we feel) when we injure a body part or have some disease or disorder that is affecting a body part. This kind of pain is often called "acute" pain. Acute pain is typically related to a known injury or disease. It can be short-term (goes away soon), such as the pain you feel when you bump your elbow on the table. Acute pain can also be recurring (comes and goes), such as the pain from arthritis where the person has "good days and bad days." Acute pain can also be persistent (doesn't go away), such as the pain a person feels from terminal cancer.

Chronic Pain

Another type of pain is called "chronic" pain. This kind of pain is not necessarily directly related to any physical injury or disease any more. An injury or disease may have been the initial cause of the pain (acute pain), but the body should have recovered by now and the pain should be much less or gone. The causes of chronic pain are complex and not fully understood. Basically, it is thought that the pain nerves and the parts of the brain that relate to pain that were initially stimulated by the acute pain undergo some changes that make the feelings of pain persist longer than they should.

What factors affect a person's feelings of pain?

Pain is difficult to evaluate and treat because it really can’t be seen under a microscope or measured with a ruler or special machine. It is something that an individual person feels, and the amount of or intensity of the pain can depend on a variety of factors, such as:

-Knowledge Level

Other factors are related to mental, emotional, and behavioral aspects of a person and can often magnify the feelings of pain. These factors include:

-Past Pain Experiences
-Behavioral Needs
-Anxiety and/or Depression
-Social Isolation

In addition, it is believed that if these factors are not addressed when a person has acute pain, there is an increased chance of the acute pain becoming chronic pain.

What are some treatment options for pain?

It is important to remember that pain can be a symptom of something else that is going on in the body. Therefore, the cause of the pain and the type of pain should be determined before treating it. Please call or visit your healthcare provider before starting any treatments or medications for pain.

Treatment for Acute Pain

pillsAcute pain caused by a recent injury or disease will often get better when the injury or disease is treated. For example, antibiotics for a painful sinus infection will help reduce the pain because the medication is helping to get rid of the infection.

The causes of recurring or persistent acute pain are also the focus of treatment. For example, anti-inflammatory medications, such as Aleve, Naprosyn, Celebrex, Vioxx, or Nuprin are often used to treat arthritis, which in turn help to reduce the pain caused by the inflammation.

In addition to treating the specific cause of acute pain, there are other things that can be done to help manage the pain until the recent injury or disease heals or gets under control. For example, your healthcare provider may recommend the following:

-Pain medication
-A cold or ice pack to be used during the first 48-72 hours after an injury to help control the pain from swelling and tissue damage.
-Heat (heating pad, warm shower or bath, etc.) to be used after a few days to help relax painful muscles and/or joints. Heat can also be used during gentle stretching of the painful area to improve range of motion.
-Gentle exercises to keep the painful area loose and to prevent joint or muscle tightness

Treatment for Chronic Pain

Remember, there typically is no longer any damage to the body from injury or disease with chronic pain, and other emotional and mental factors can be involved. Chronic pain is a complex process and both the physical and psychological aspects should be addressed to help manage chronic pain. There are a variety of different treatment options that can be used to manage chronic pain that your healthcare provider may suggest:pain

Exercise- some examples are: stretching, strengthening, and endurance exercises, and any other activities that are enjoyable to you. The key point is to MOVE, but pace yourself during exercises and activities. Take a break when you feel you need it and don't overdo it.

Stress management and relaxation techniques- some examples are: deep breathing, biofeedback, guided imagery, meditation, and progressive relaxation exercises. The key point is to MANAGE STRESS in whatever way works for you. Feeling stressed can magnify any pain that you feel.

Improve your social support system- some examples are: support groups, such as Caretalk; organized activities at a church or senior center; going out to dinner; and/or shopping at the mall. The key point is to INTERACT WITH OTHERS. Being alone and isolated can make the feelings of pain seem worse.

Talk to your healthcare provider- there are some medical treatments for chronic pain that can include medications, nerve blocks, or surgery.

Additional Information:

The following are some web sites to provide you with more information about treatment for pain:

American Chronic Pain Association

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Frontera, W. R., Silver, J. K., & Rizzo, T. D. (2008). Essentials of physical medicine and rehabilitation (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2011). Post stroke rehabilitation fact sheet. Retrieved from

O'Sullivan S. B. & Schmitz, T. J. (2001). Physical rehabilitation: assessment and treatment (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Co.

Recovery after stroke: dealing with pain. (2009). Retrieve from

Developed in 2003 by Michelle M. Masterson, PhD, MEd, PT at The University of Toledo for Caring~Web©.

Revised 2010, 2012


Last Updated: 6/27/22