Pain

Everyone experiences pain at some time. It might be the result of an injury, operation, or pushing your body too hard. Headache, infection, arthritis, and other health problems cause pain. Unchecked, pain can rob you of the ability to sleep, work, and enjoy life. It can also lead to depression and anxiety.

We've come a long way from the days of "grin and bear it," or "no pain, no gain." Pain begets pain, so it's important to stop it early. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to pain relief. Standard medications can be a good option for many pain sufferers, but a wide range of effective nondrug therapies are also available.

Pain Articles

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory disease that causes pain, stiffness, warmth, redness and swelling in joints. Over time, the affected joints may become misshapen, misaligned and damaged. Tissue lining the joint can become thick, and may wear away surrounding ligaments, cartilage and bone as it spreads. Rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs in a symmetrical pattern, meaning that if one knee or hand has it, the other usually does, too. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, although it appears to be an autoimmune disease. When the body's immune system does not operate as it should, white blood cells that normally attack bacteria or viruses attack healthy tissue instead — in this case, the synovium, or joint tissue. As the synovial membrane (the thin layer of cells lining the joint) becomes inflamed, enzymes are released. Over time, these enzymes and certain immune cells damage the cartilage, bone, tendons and ligaments near the joint. Some research suggests that a virus triggers this faulty immune response. However, there is not yet convincing evidence that a virus is the cause of rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time, it appears that some people are more likely to get the disease because of their genetics. Environmental factors may also be important. For example, smoking is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis, the most disabling form of arthritis, generally affects more than one joint at a time. Commonly affected joints include those in the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and neck. Rheumatoid arthritis can result in loose, deformed joints, loss of mobility and diminished strength. It also can cause painless lumps the size of a pea or acorn, called rheumatoid nodules. These develop under the skin, especially around the elbow or beneath the toes. Generally, the pain of rheumatoid arthritis is described as a dull ache, similar to that of a headache or toothache. Pain is typically worse in the morning. It is not rare to have 30 minutes to an hour or more of morning stiffness. On days when the disease is more active, you may experience fatigue, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, sweats and difficulty sleeping. Because rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease (meaning it can affect the entire body), you also may have inflammation in other areas, including the heart, lungs or eyes. Symptoms vary between people and even in one person over time. People with mild forms of the disease are bothered by pain and stiffness, but they may not experience any joint damage. For other people, damage occurs early, requiring aggressive medical and surgical treatment. People with rheumatoid arthritis may notice worsening and improvement for no apparent reason. Although this disease most often afflicts people between the ages of 20 and 50, it may affect children and the elderly. Of the 2 million people with rheumatoid arthritis in the United States, at least 75 percent are women. (Locked) More »

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that mainly affects the lower back. It causes inflammation and damage at the joints, and first affects the sacroiliac joints between the spine and the pelvis. It also can affect other areas of the spine and other joints, such as the knee. Eventually, inflamed spinal joints can become fused, or joined together so they can't move independently. The word spondylitis refers to inflammation of the spine; ankylosis means fusion or the melding of two bones into one. (Locked) More »

Bursitis

A bursa is a membrane near a joint that acts as a cushion between the muscle and bone. The bursa reduces friction caused by movement and makes the joint more flexible. Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. It is a common condition that often happens when a joint is overused, such as when throwing a baseball or painting a wall. More rarely, bursitis can be caused by gout or an infection. Bursitis is more common in people who are overweight, elderly or diabetic, although it also develops in younger, healthy people without a clear reason. (Locked) More »

Chondromalacia

The joints in your body are cushioned with a type of tissue called articular cartilage. This tough, rubbery tissue covers the ends of bones inside a joint. As the joint moves, the cartilage helps to cushion the bones and allows them to glide smoothly against one another. Sometimes, the cartilage inside a joint softens and breaks down. This condition is called chondromalacia. The cartilage loses its ability to protect the ends of the bones as the joint moves. The ends of the bones can rub together, causing pain. Chondromalacia can affect any joint, but the most common location is inside the knee. It usually begins as a small area of softened cartilage behind the kneecap (patella) that can be painful. Eventually, more of the cartilage softens, and the softened cartilage can crack or shred into a mass of fibers. In severe cases, the damaged cartilage can wear away completely, down to the undersurface of the kneecap. If this happens, the exposed kneecap's bony surface can grind painfully against other knee bones. Also, bits of cartilage can float inside the joint, further irritating the cells that line the joint. In response, these cells produce fluid inside the joint (called a joint effusion). (Locked) More »

Hammertoe

The smallest four toes of each foot have three bony segments connected by two joints, just as the fingers do. Hammertoe is a deformity in which one or more of the small toes develops a bend at the joint between the first and second segments so that the tip of the toe turns downward, making it looks like a hammer or claw. The second toe is affected most often. Most hammertoes are caused by wearing ill-fitting, tight or high-heeled shoes over a long period of time. Shoes that don't fit well can crowd the toes, putting pressure on the middle toes and causing them to curl downward. The condition may be more likely when the second toe is longer than the first toe or when the arch of the foot is flat. Hammertoe can also be present at birth (congenital). Hammertoe also can be caused by a bunion, which is the knobby bump that sometimes develops at the side of the big toe. A bunion causes the big toe to bend toward the other toes. The big toe can then overlap and crowd the smaller toes. Occasionally, a hammertoe is inherited or caused by arthritis in the toe joint. If the toes remain in the hammertoe position for long periods, the tendons on the top of the foot will tighten over time because they are not stretched to their full length. Eventually, the tendons shorten enough that the toe stays bent, even when shoes are not being worn.   (Locked) More »

Muscle Strain

A muscle strain is the stretching or tearing of muscle fibers. Most muscle strains happen for one of two reasons: either the muscle has been stretched beyond its limits or it has been forced to contract too strongly. In mild cases, only a few muscle fibers are stretched or torn, and the muscle remains intact and strong. In severe cases, however, the strained muscle may be torn and unable to function properly.  (Locked) More »

Paronychia

A paronychia is an infection of the skin that surrounds a toenail or fingernail. There are two different types of paronychia, acute and chronic: Acute paronychia — This usually appears as a sudden, very painful area of swelling, warmth and redness around a fingernail or toenail, usually after an injury to the area. An acute paronychia typically is caused by an infection with bacteria that invade the skin where it was injured. The injury can be caused by overaggressive manicuring (especially cutting or tearing the cuticle, which is the rim of paper-thin skin that outlines the outer margins of your nail). It can also result from biting the edges of the nails or the skin around the nails, picking at the skin near the nails or sucking on the fingers. Chronic paronychia — This is an infection that usually develops slowly, causing gradual swelling, tenderness and redness of the skin around the nails. It usually is caused by Candida or other species of yeast (fungus). It often affects several fingers on the same hand. People who are more likely to get this infection include those with diabetes or workers whose jobs constantly expose their hands to water or chemical solvents. Such jobs include bartending, house cleaning, janitorial work, dentistry, nursing, food service, dishwashing and hairdressing. (Locked) More »

Swimmer's Ear (Otitis Externa)

Otitis externa is an infection of the ear canal caused by bacteria or fungi. It often is called swimmer's ear because it is associated with frequent swimming. Prolonged exposure to water, which may contain certain bacteria, makes the skin of the ear canal swollen and more likely to get infected. Summer humidity also changes the skin of the ear canal, increasing the possibility of infection. (Locked) More »

Tension Headache

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. These headaches are not caused by disease. They are often considered to be "normal" headaches. Other names for tension headaches are ordinary headaches, muscle tension headaches, and stress headaches. The International Headache Society has suggested that doctors use the term tension-type headaches because so many different names have been used for tension headaches. Typically tension-type headache causes mild to moderate pain, usually on both sides of the head. There is a pressing or tightening sensation. It is not pulsating and is not accompanied by nausea. The headache does not get worse with routine physical activity.   (Locked) More »

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are very intense headaches. They usually start in the area around one eye, then spread to nearby areas of the face. Each headache lasts about a half-hour to three hours. Episodes can occur several times over 24 hours (in clusters). This happens daily, lasting several weeks to months. Most cluster headaches occur at night. This condition affects men much more frequently than women. Some people discover they have "triggers" that start the headache, such as: Alcohol Certain foods, especially those with high amounts of nitrites (bacon for example) Tobacco products Bright lights Hot weather or hot showers and baths On average, people experience one to three headache episodes daily for four to eight weeks. Once a cluster of episodes ends, the person may remain headache-free for months or years. The cause of cluster headaches is unknown. They may be related to a temporary imbalance of brain chemicals.   (Locked) More »