Pain is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain as:

‘An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.’ ​In plain english, it means that pain is something that feels unpleasant, leads to suffering and an emotional response in you, and causes you to worry that there is some part of your body that is damaged. The last sentence is very important, as it is entirely possible to experience pain without damage to your body. In most cases, chronic pain is not caused by an injury or serious damage to the body.​ Pain is the one thing we cannot ignore. It disrupts our lives and drives us to change our behaviour or seek help.

Pain is an output of the brain in response to a signal received from a nerve, telling the brain that something dangerous or potentially dangerous is happening somewhere in the body. The brain will receive a message from the area where the nerve originates. 

So, for instance, if you bump your knee against a door frame, a signal will race up a nerve at blinding speed all the way to the part of the brain that deals with sensation coming from the knee, and if your brain thinks it is important enough, or potentially dangerous enough to pay attention, you will experience pain in your knee (in your brain).

Clever is it not?


Acute pain is the pain you feel in response to an event that has happened in or to your body that is dangerous or potentially dangerous.

It frequently occurs due to an injury or illness. It is useful, protects us from harm, and settles as the injury heals or we recover from illness. 


Chronic pain is pain that has been present for more than three months, is no longer useful and lasts long after the original injury has healed or we have recovered from illness. 

Chronic pain is no longer protective, and it is often the disability and distress that is the problem, more than the original injury or condition. Chronic pain can exist in the absence of an injury or damage to the body. It is often considered a disease in its own right and can cause significant physical or mental health problems. 

Do you think you might have chronic pain?

Do you realise that most people with chronic pain have pain without having injured themselves?