Pain is the result of complex brain processes, influenced by overlapping physical, psychological and environmental factors.

All pain is an individual human experience that is entirely subjective and can only truly be appreciated by the person experiencing the pain.

A person’s pain experience can be strongly affected by their attitudes, beliefs and even their personality.

Pain can broadly be divided into categories.

  • Acute pain is pain that lasts for a short time and occurs following surgery or trauma or other condition. It acts as a warning to the body to seek help.
  • Sub-acute pain is pain that is progressing towards chronic pain, but this progression may be prevented. This is known as the transition phase.
  • Recurrent pain is pain that occurs on a cyclical basis, such as migraine or pelvic pain.
  • Chronic pain is pain that lasts beyond the time expected for healing following surgery or trauma or other condition. It is often associated with an increased pain experience, not just in the area of injury, but also in surrounding tissue or nerves. It can also exist without a clear reason at all.

Acute pain can become chronic pain and this is because the human brain boasts a remarkable ability to change and effectively “rewire” itself, a concept known as “neuroplasticity”.

This is particularly important when it comes to pain. Acute pain that is left untreated or under-treated can lead to neuroplastic changes within the nervous system.

After tissue or nerve damage, peripheral nerve endings become sensitised to noxious stimuli. When combined with continued acute pain, this can trigger a “rewiring” of the brain and nerve signals.

The resulting pain “memory” leads to “pain sensitisation”, where pain signals are transmitted unnecessarily — long after the original source of pain has healed — and pain is now chronic.

It is important to treat pain correctly and your community pharmacist can advise on what may be the best medications for your particular pain issues.

Your community pharmacist can also discuss any pain concern you may have also whether to seek further medical advice.

Patient resources


Other Pain Management Resources