Pain is the brain’s way of letting us know that something is not quite right in our body. Our nerves give us a signal to help us hone in on an area where there may be damage.
By locating the source of the pain, and understanding what type of pain we’re experiencing, we can decide what actions to take. You should always see your Doctor if you're worried about any pain you're experiencing.
Types of pain
Pain can be divided into acute pain, which lasts anywhere between a few seconds to a few weeks, and chronic pain. Any pain that is present for more than 12 weeks is considered to be chronic pain.
Acute and chronic pain can range from mild to severe. Pain may also vary in intensity at different times.
For example, a toothache or a burn is usually a type of severe acute pain, while a cut often gives mild acute pain. A pain like back pain can be either acute or chronic and may vary in intensity from day-to-day.
Natural ways to manage your pain
Simple measures can often help you to control your pain. They’re particularly useful for managing chronic pain and can help you reduce your need for painkillers.
With acute pain, it’s generally advisable to rest as much as you need to allow the injured or painful area to recover. This might mean avoiding long walks or periods of standing for joint pain, or reducing your exercise routine while you allow a strain to heal.
However for some types of pain, in particular chronic pain, you need to get moving. Carry out stretching exercises for neck pain or chronic back pain, or take a walk to ease discomfort caused by indigestion. You can also:
• Try to continue working. Evidence shows that people with chronic pain who remain in work are often more active and suffer less with depression than those who stop working – it can provide a helpful distraction from the pain
• Incorporate regular low impact exercise into your routine, such as swimming, walking or dancing
• Applying heat to a painful area often helps. You can use heat packs for joint pains or warm towels for period cramps
• Avoid smoking – studies have shown it makes back pain more likely
Consider taking a painkiller if you are still in pain. Your pharmacist can advise you on which medicines are most suitable for you, taking into account your medical history and symptoms. Painkillers may help to reduce your pain to a level that allows you to remain active and stay in work.
When to visit your Doctor
If your pain does not get better despite rest and painkillers, it’s best to make an appointment with your Doctor. Speak to your Doctor if you experience any of the following:
• Severe pain – however, if this is chest pain, you should call an ambulance immediately
• Problems with vision or painful vision
• Loss of power in your arms or legs
• Other associated symptoms like shortness of breath, a rash or high fever
• Try managing your pain using simple methods like resting and drinking plenty of water
• Ask your pharmacist for advice to choose a suitable painkiller to help ease your pain
• If you’re still in pain after a period of rest and taking painkillers, speak to your Doctor