Pain Terminology for Patients

Acupuncture - Oriental practice of inserting needles into the skin at points (Meridians) of the body to help relieve pain and treat illness.

Acute Pain - Sharp or intense short-term pain.  Typically follows injury or surgery.

Addiction - Psychological or emotional need for a drug.  Associated with cravings and inappropriate efforts to obtain the drug.

Algology - The science and study of pain phenomena.

Allodynia - The sensation of pain triggered by a stimulus to the skin that is normally not painful (e.g., lightly touching a sunburn).

Analgesia - Absence or decreased pain response to stimulation that would normally be painful.

Analgesic - Medicine used to relieve pain.

Anesthesia - Absence or partial loss of sensation.

Anesthetic - An agent (or agents) that reversibly produce anesthesia.

Anti-inflammatory - A medicine that reduces inflammation.

Arthropathy - Disorder or disease of a joint.

Athralgia - Pain in or affecting a joint.

Causalgia - Intense pain and sensitivity usually following injury to a peripheral nerve.

Central Pain - Pain associated with a lesion or dysfunction of the central nervous system.

Chronic Pain - The opposite of acute pain.  Persistent, long-term pain.

Deafferentation Pain - Pain due to the loss of normal sensory input into the central nervous system.

Dermatome - An area of skin supplied by fibers of a single nerve root.

Dysesthesia - An abnormal, unpleasant sensation.

Epidural - An injection into the outer layer of the spinal canal (the epidural space).

Hyperalgesia - Increased sensitivity to pain.

Hyperesthesia - Abnormal, acute sensitivity to sensory stimulation of the skin.

Hypoalgesia - Diminished sensitivity to sensory stimulation of the skin.

Narcotic - Usually refers to opioids--pain-relieving drugs that are derivatives of opium.

Nerve Block - An injection of medication directly into or around a nerve or group of nerves to provide regional pain relief.

Neuralgia - Pain in the distribution of a nerve or nerves and caused by nerve damage or dysfunction.

Neuritis - Inflammation of a nerve or nerves.

Neuropathic - Pain originating from the malfunctioning of the nervous system.

Neuropathy - Disturbance of function or pathologic change in one or more nerves.

Nociceptive Pain - Response to a painful stimulus.

Nociceptor - A sensory nerve receptor that responds to pain.

Noxious Stimulus - A stimulus that is harmful or potentially harmful to body tissue, and triggers a painful or unpleasant sensation.

Opioid or Opiate - A pain-killing drug chemically related to opium.

Pain - An unpleasant feeling that may be associated with disease or trauma.

Pain Threshold - The most minimal stimulation that a person recognizes as painful—this varies from individual to individual. 

Pain Tolerance Level - The greatest amount of pain a person can tolerate.

Paresthesia - An abnormal sensation such as tingling or ‘pins and needles’ that may be uncomfortable, but not truly painful.

Radiculitis - Inflammation of a nerve root in the spinal canal.

Radiculopathy - Pain and neurologic deficit caused by injury to a nerve root.

Referred Pain - Pain felt in a body part that is distant from the pain origin.  The origin and the body part may share a common nerve pathway.

Rhizotomy - Surgical incision of nerve root(s) within the spinal canal.

Somatosensory - Sensory signals from the body—usually referring to signals from the limbs rather than internal organs.

Trigger Point - An area in muscle or connective tissue that is hypersensitive to touch or pressure.

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