HEALTH WATCH: Accurately defining pain

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska Physical Therapists Rachel Campbell and Jake Kretschmar held a lecture about pain and how often people misunderstand it.

"Pain is a sensation much like many other sensations and all sensations are produced in the mind," said Physical Therapist Jake Kretschmar.

He, along with co-worker Rachel Campbell, gave a lecture last night at the University about what pain is. The most common understanding comes from the Renaissance era. The Cartesian Model says that physical harm generates pain, but that is not always the case. Harm does not always equal pain.

"You can experience pain without tissue injury," began Kretschmar; "or that the amount of tissue damage that you sustain is not always directly related to the amount of pain that you experience."

Everyone interprets pain differently. Two people can sustain the same injury, but feel differently about how it affects them.

There are also two kinds of pain, acute and chronic. Acute pain is tissue damage that last up to 12 weeks. Chronic pain can last from 3 to 6 months and can cause a hyper sensitive nervous system where your brain gets good at feeling pain. 1 in 5 adults report that they have chronic pain. That's more than the number of adults with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. Biomedical treatment, such as surgery, is designed to deal with acute pain, not chronic. Because of that Kretschmar and Campbell use a different method to treat that kind of discomfort.

"We need to approach chronic pain from a biophyscosocial approach," stated Campbell. "So not just looking at the biomedical or the tissue issues, also addressing the patients psychological health in terms of stress and anxiety or depression, and then lastly looking at the social or cultural context of how are they dealing and how are they managing it."

Campbell went on to say that they often refer patients to other specialists, such as a therapist, to help with the healing process. There are four major things anyone dealing with chronic pain should focus on: education on the pain, aerobic exercise, sleep, and setting realistic goals. Campbell has a message for those dealing with chronic illness.

"I would like people to know that there is hope, with people who experience persistent chronic pain," said Campbell.

For those wanting to find out more information about chronic pain, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital is having a free event starting at 6 pm on Thursday to help continue educating the public.