Acute pain, chronic pain

Pain is a warning signal sent by the body in the event of overwork, danger or illness. Nerve fibers send a message to the brain by means of substances called neurotransmitters. Acute pain is therefore a useful, protective reaction, generally of limited duration. Simply eliminate the cause and the pain disappears.


When pain persists for a long time, often even beyond the time required for healing, we speak of chronic pain. The cause of such pain is not always identifiable. Prolonged pain messages gradually modify the nerve fibers, which become so sensitive that they constantly send painful signals to the brain, even for phenomena that should not normally be felt as painful. Pain is no longer protective, but destructive, both psychologically and socially, as well as physically.
In addition to physical causes, there are many emotional, social and family factors which can amplify pain. A psychological disturbance can be the cause of pain... or its consequence. There is usually a complex web of causes of all kinds, which are very difficult to identify.

Analgesics

 

Analgesics (or painkillers) are drugs that suppress or at least shorten the sensation of pain. They act through different mechanisms and are prescribed according to the nature of the pain, its intensity and its evolution.
There are two main classes of analgesics:

  • non-morphine analgesics: aspirin and paracetamol, for the treatment of mild to moderate pain.
  • morphine analgesics (requiring a doctor's prescription), in turn divided into three subclasses according to potency:
    • low-potency morphine analgesics: mainly codeine, often combined with paracetamol (on prescription)
    • intermediate-strength morphine analgesics such as tramadol (Contramal®)
    • powerful morphine- or fentanyl-based analgesics. These are prescribed only when pain is very intense and other analgesics have failed.

Other types of medication are also frequently used to relieve mild to moderate pain: "non-steroidal" anti-inflammatories (e.g. Brufen®), spasmolytics (Buscopan® and others), etc


All analgesics have side effects. Avoid using these drugs indiscriminately, and always read the instructions carefully before use. Doctors and pharmacists are there to advise you.

Frequent pain in young people

The most common aches and pains among young people are backache, stress-related tension, particularly in the neck and back, and headaches or migraines.

Headaches can be caused by fatigue, stress, too much alcohol or tobacco, certain foods, ENT problems (colds, stuffy nose, etc.), lack of fresh air or air that's too dry, dehydration, etc.

During exam periods, there are many stress-related tension headaches. These can be relieved by physiotherapy techniques: simple massages, cold or hot showers, physical exercise and muscle relaxation exercises.

Hay fever can cause headaches due to congestion of the respiratory tract. The doctor will then prescribe antihistamines, which may cause drowsiness, or dryness of the mouth or throat. Nasal sprays should be used sparingly, as they can be habit-forming and addictive. There are also other treatments available, which your doctor can discuss with you.


 Many people respond to stress by developing muscle contractions. It's mainly (but not exclusively) the neck and back that suffer. Pain management therefore often involves stress management, and muscle relaxation techniques such as relaxation, yoga, walking or jogging are particularly useful.

Hay fever can cause headaches due to congestion of the respiratory tract. The doctor will then prescribe antihistamines, which may cause drowsiness, or dryness of the mouth or throat. Nasal sprays should be used sparingly, as they can be habit-forming and addictive. There are also other treatments available, which your doctor can discuss with you.

 Many people respond to stress by developing muscle contractions. It's mainly (but not exclusively) the neck and back that suffer. Pain management therefore often involves managing stress and muscle relaxation techniques are particularly useful: relaxation, yoga, walking or jogging.

updated on 4/24/24

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