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A Guide to Pain Management for Adults

muscle pain

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Pain is a complex protective mechanism that is considered as the body’s ‘built-in alarm system’. In this article, learn about different types of pain and how pain management works.


About Pain

In medical terms, pain is an uncomfortable sensation a person experience when being involved in an injury or illness. Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is not right. Its purpose is to give you signals, so you when how to properly respond.

Anything that causes harm to the body will cause the brain to trigger the pain response. If you accidentally touch something hot, the quick response is to get away from the hot object and cool the skin. While playing sports, if you suddenly feel pain from your ankle, your body tells you to stop.

The perception of pain may vary for every person. One person might suffer from a broken bone and not feel anything, while another may experience significant pain from the same injury. It is because pain intercedes by the nerves in the body. These nerve fibres are responsible for sending pain signals to the brain, which happens very quickly. Once it reaches the brain, the brain tends to react differently to the same stimuli. This explains why pain perception and tolerance are different from one person to another.

Pain itself is not a life-threatening condition. However, prolonged and untreated pain can cause physiological changes in blood pressure, breathing, and pulse.


Types of Pain

There are five common types of pain, but some can fit into more than one category, which is where the complication comes in.

  • Acute pain – this type of pain is mostly related to a soft-tissue injury or temporary illness. It typically subsides after a few minutes or days.
  • Chronic pain – pain that is longer in duration and can be constant or intermittent. It is often due to several health conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, a spine condition, and even chronic headache.
  • Neuropathic pain occurs when there is damage to the nerves or some parts of the nervous system. It is described as a stabbing or burning pain or feeling like being pinched with pins and needles. You may also experience difficulty in feeling sensations.
  • Nociceptive pain – a type of pain caused by damage to body tissues. It is often described as feeling a sharp, achy, or throbbing pain. It is caused by external injuries such as hitting your elbow, stub toe, ankle twist, falls, and scraped knees.
  • Radicular pain – a specific type of pain that occurs when the spinal nerve gets compressed or inflamed.


Pain Management

Pain management is essential as it is the key to improving quality of life and will allow you to do things you enjoy.


Non-Medicated Pain Control

Minor pains can be reduced, to a certain degree, even without medications.

  • Rest – take rest for the first 48 to 72 hours following an injury.
  • Ice – apply a cold compress to the injury to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Comfortable positioning – adopt a comfortable position for the casualty, whether it is laying down, sitting up, or in a ‘fetal’ position. Do not force them to a certain position. Instead, let the person adapt to the position they want.
  • Physical therapy – in some cases, it is recommended to do some walking, stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises. These will help in pain management, keep you mobile, and improve your mood.


Medicated Pain Control

Providing over-the-counter (OTC) medications helps significantly if done properly. The main types of pain medicines are:

  • Paracetamol – the first medicine to relieve short-term pain.
  • Aspirin – best for short-term fever relief. It also works in mild-to-moderate pain, such as period pain (dysmenorrhea) or headache.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – The most popular for pain relief is Ibuprofen. These medicines alleviate inflammation, pain, as well as redness and swelling.

If the pain is fading and you are feeling better, the treatments are probably working. But if the pain is severe or it becomes worse, it is time to seek professional medical help.



First aid for pain requires planning. When stocking a first aid kit at home, in your car, and in the office, make sure to include over-the-counter pain relievers. It also helps to acquire further knowledge in attending and treating a variety of emergencies that causes pain.

Learn more about pain management in a First Aid Course.

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