There are a number of different terms that you might hear your doctors or nurses use to describe pain.
Acute pain is short term. It’s often caused by cancer treatments such as surgery.
Chronic pain persists over a longer period of time. With cancer, it’s usually caused by the cancer itself, but it can sometimes be caused by cancer treatments.
Neuropathic (nerve) pain
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This is a term that describes pain caused by nerve damage. This may be due to tumour growth or cancer treatments. It can also be caused by nerves becoming ‘sensitised’ or ‘wound up’. Neuropathic pain is a type of pain that comes and goes; you may describe it using words such as burning, stabbing, shooting, tingling, radiating or spreading. There are specific medicines that can help treat neuropathic pain.
This is pain that occurs when pain is generally being well controlled with painkillers. It may be brought on quite suddenly by an activity, such as walking or coughing, or it may happen when the effect of the regular painkiller wears off.
Total pain is a term doctors and nurses use to describe all the different parts of a person’s pain. This includes how the pain affects and can be affected by our emotions, our behaviours, our spiritual beliefs and our social activities.
Whether you have acute, chronic, neuropathic and/or breakthrough pain, these pains can almost always be controlled with the right treatments.