Pain Management Glossary
Ablative surgery – type of surgery performed on parts of the central or peripheral nervous system to help permanently alleviate pain by affecting the pathways of nerves.
Acupressure – complementary medicine technique that uses pressure on certain points along the body to help with pain management.
Acupuncture – complementary medicine technique using tiny needles inserted in the skin at certain points along the body to help manage pain, produce anesthesia or promote therapy.
Acute pain – pain that can be extremely intense, but lasts for only a short period of time. Acute pain also has a diagnosable cause and gets better with treatment. Usually follows injury to the body and generally disappears when the bodily injury heals.
Addiction – a primary, chronic neurobiologic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control medication use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.
Adjuvant medication – drug not primarily designed for or prescribed to help alleviate pain, but that has been found to help with pain management.
Allodynia – term used to describe pain that occurs from a situation that doesn't usually cause pain, like something barely touching your skin.
Analgesic – medication specifically designed to manage or help prevent pain.
Anesthetic – drug that causes numbness.
Antidepressant – medication typically used to treat symptoms of depression, but also commonly prescribed to help manage chronic pain and some of its symptoms, such as insomnia.
Anxiolysis – sedation or hypnosis used to reduce anxiety, agitation or tension.
Anxiolytics – medications that help manage anxiety and are also used to manage pain by encouraging muscles to relax and thereby ease the pain.
Arthritis – a generic term that describes more than 100 different condtions; a disorder of a joint where two bones meet, creating swelling, redness, warmth or tenderness. Includes loss of joint space and formation of spurs, erosions or cysts in the bone.
Arthrocentesis – procedure in which a needle is inserted into the joint to either drain fluid for diagnostic purposes or to inject medications or other materials into the joint.
Biofeedback – complementary medicine technique that trains you to control your body's unconscious processes like breathing and heart rate, which can help to alleviate pain.
Biologic agents – a category of therapy in rheumatic diseases involving the synthesis of substances that interfere with the basic biologic mechanisms of the disease process.
Breakthrough pain – pain that occurs suddenly or as a result of a particular activity.
Cancer pain – may be acute, chronic or intermitten, usually related to tumor recurrence or treatment.
Catastrophize – tendency to focus on and worry about pain and to evaluate one’s ability to control pain in an overly negative fashion.
Central nervous system (CNS) – body system that includes the brain and spinal cord; your doctor may mention your CNS when talking about how pain occurs or the cause of your chronic pain.
Chronic pain – pain that continues over many months or even years, and may get worse with time. Chronic pain often persists long after an injury has healed; it may be minor or extreme.
Cognitive reappraisal – a coping strategy in which patients are taught to monitor and evaluate negative thoughts and replace them with more positive thoughts and images.
Complementary medicine – treatment that falls outside the standard medical approaches. Complementary medicine techniques for pain may include acupuncture, herbs, chiropractic care and yoga.
Computed tomography (CT) scan – diagnostic procedure, using X-ray technology and a computer, that may be used to help diagnose the source of your pain.
Conscious or moderate sedation – light sedation during which the patient retains airway reflexes and responds to verbal stimuli.
Counterirritant – an agent that is applied to produce irritation at one site, thus decreasing perception of pain at the same or different site.
Counterstimulant – application of a moderate to intense sensory stimulation, such as with cold, heat, rubbing, pressure or electrical current, so as to decrease perception of pain at the same or different site.
Cryotherapy – therapeutic use of cold to reduce discomfort, limit swelling or break a muscle spasm. Cryotherapy is a form of counterirritation.
Dysesthesia – an unpleasant abnormal sensation, whether spontaneous or evoked; impairment of sensation, especially touch.
Dysphoria – an emotional state marked by anxiety, depression or restlessness.
Eutectic mixture of local anesthetics (EMLA) – an ointment that contains local anesthetics so that topical application causes anesthesia without the need for injection.
Fibromyalgia – condition that causes pain all over the body, including muscle pain and stiffness; fatigue is another common symptom of this chronic pain condition.
Hyperalgesia – increased sensitivity to pain or enhanced intensity of pain sensation.
Hyperpathia – term to describe an excessive response to a pain trigger, and pain that continues after the pain trigger is gone.
Hypnosis – a state of heightened awareness and focused concentration that can be used to manipulate the perception of pain.
Iatrogenic – induced inadvertently by medical treatment or procedures.
Imagery – a cognitive-behavioral strategy that uses mental images produced by memory or imagination for relaxation, or distraction.
Incident pain – a type of breakthrough pain related to a specific activity; also referred to as movement-related pain.
Lancinating – characterized by piercing or stabbing sensations.
Loading dose – the initial dose administered for a pain episode.
Local nerve block – infiltration of a local anesthestic around a peripheral nerve to produce anesthesia in the area supplied by the nerve.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this diagnostic procedure, using magnetic fields, radio waves, and a computer, may be used to determine the source of pain.
Maintenance dose – medication dosage required to produce a given level of analgesia.
Music therapy – a form of distraction that uses music as an aid to relaxation.
Myofascial pain – term to describe pain and soreness in the muscles.
Nerve blocks – pain management technique that involves injecting an anesthetic into the nerves to numb the area and help alleviate pain.
Nociceptive pain – pain resulting from actual or potential tissue damage.
NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help to reduce inflammation and manage pain; available in over-the-counter and prescription strengths.
Opioid – medication class often prescribed to manage pain; drugs include codeine, morphine, fentanyl and methadone.
Opioid agonist – any morphine-like compound that produces bodily effects, including pain relief, sedation, constipation and respiratory depression.
Pain – an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.
Pain affect – the affective unpleasantness and emotional sense caused by pain.
Paradoxical reaction – response (e.g., to a medication) that is the opposite of the usual response, such as agitation produced by a drug normally considered to a sedative.
Paraparesis – partial paralysis of the lower extremities.
Paresthesia – a skin sensation, such as burning, prickling, itching or tingling, with no apparent physical cause.
Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) – analgesics self-administered by a patient; usually refers to self-dosing with an IV and programmable pump.
Peripheral nervous system – this system includes the nerves all over the body that relay messages like pain to the CNS.
Peripheral neuropathy – pain caused by damage to or an abnormality with the peripheral nervous system.
Persistent pain – constant pain that lasts for long periods.
Pharmacotherapy – medication-based therapy.
Physical modalities – physical methods, such as heat, cold, massage or exercise, to relieve pain.
Progressive muscle relaxation – a cognitive-behavioral strategy in which muscles are alternately tenses and then relaxed in a systematic fashion.
Pseudoaddiction – pattern of medication-seeking behavior of patients receiving inadequate pain management.
Psychological approaches – techniques or therapies used instead of or in addition to medication to help you manage your pain; types of therapy include biofeedback, relaxation, stress management and cognitive-behavioral therapy to manage the emotional triggers of pain.
Psychosocial intervention – a therapeutic intervention that uses cognitive, cognitive-behavioral, behavioral and supportive interventions to relieve pain. These include patient education, interventions aimed at helping relaxation, psychotherapy and structured or peer support.
Refractory pain – pain that is resistant to ordinary treatment.
Rehabilitation – treatment plan, often exercise based, used to help you regain function or relieve pain caused by an illness or injury.
Reiki – complementary medicine technique that uses gentle pressure from the hands to encourage "healing energy," and is often used to treat both acute and chronic pain.
Relaxation methods – a variety of techniques to help decrease anxiety and muscle tension; these may trigger imagery, distraction and progressive muscle relaxation.
Rescue dose – an extra dose of medication given as needed to relieve pain that breaks through despite a regimen of medication given at regularly scheduled intervals.
Tactile strategies – strategies that provide comfort through the sense of touch, such as stroking or massage.
Tapering or weaning – a process in which a medication is gradually withdrawn from a patient who is physically depending on the medication.
Titration – incremental adjustments of medication in subsequent doses until a desired effect is achieved.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – pain management technique that uses small amounts of electricity delivered through electrodes placed on the skin.
Viscosupplementation – a procedure in which viscous fluid is injected into a joint (such as the knee), which results in decreased pain and increased mobility.
Yoga – complementary medicine technique that exercises the mind and body with meditation, postures, and breathing techniques that can help manage pain.