Various Definitions of Pain
There are numerous different definitions for pain. The most widely accepted definition of pain is the one used by The International Association for the Study of Pain. It defines pain as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience arising from actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage”.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine defines pain as – “An unpleasant sensation and emotional response to that sensation”.
Pain has the dubious distinction of being the commonest symptom for which a person approaches medical care.
The definition of pain that is most appropriate for use in clinical practice was given by Margo McCaffrey in 1968. He defined pain as “whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does.”
The Web version of the Encyclopedia Britannica defines pain as – “A complex experience consisting of a physiological (bodily) response to a noxious stimulus followed by an affective (emotional) response to that event. Pain is a warning mechanism that helps to protect an organism by influencing it to withdraw from harmful stimuli. It is primarily associated with injury or the threat of injury, to bodily tissues”.
Dr. Don Ranney, in his book “Anatomy of Pain” defines pain as – “A perception, not really a sensation, in the same way that vision and hearing are. It involves sensitivity to chemical changes in the tissues and then interpretation that such changes are harmful. This perception is real, whether or not harm has occurred or is occurring. Cognition is involved in the formulation of this perception. There are emotional consequences and behavioral responses to the cognitive and emotional aspects of pain”.
Dr. Pennal, in his book “Personality of Pain” defines pain as – An abstract concept which refers to:
- A personal, private, sensation of hurt
- A harmful stimulus which signals current or impending tissue damage
- A pattern of responses which operate to protect the organism from harm
These responses can be described in terms which reflect certain concepts, i.e., in neurological, physiological, behavioral, and affective “languages.”
The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines pain as:
- Usually localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (as a disease or an injury); also : a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort (as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leading to evasive action
- Acute mental or emotional distress or suffering
There is no disagreement to the fact that pain is an unpleasant sensation. In addition, it causes physical, psychosocial & psychological distress to the unfortunate victim, considerably damaging their personal and social lives.
How common is pain?
According to various statistics, about 15% to 33% of the US population (amounting to about 70 million people) is suffering from chronic pain.
Economically, it makes an average citizen spend more than he spends for heart disease and cancer combined. In the US, a whopping 100 billion dollars per year is lost due to pain in medical costs, compensation and sickness absenteeism.
Why should we possess pain perception at all in the first place?
It is because pain is a primitive and survival symptom. None of us will feel happy about having pain somewhere in our body for it always tells us that something is not quite right. It forces us to take stock of our health and approach medical care on time.
When we go to the doctor or emergency department for pain, they usually do a pain assessment.