Pain management is an aspect of medicine and health care involving relief of pain (pain relief, analgesia, pain control) in various dimensions, from acute and simple to chronic and challenging. Most physicians and other health professionals provide some pain control in the normal course of their practice, and for the more complex instances of pain, they also call on additional help from a specific medical specialty devoted to pain, which is called pain medicine.
Pain management often uses a multidisciplinary approach for easing the suffering and improving the quality of life of anyone experiencing pain, whether acute pain or chronic pain. Relief of pain in general (analgesia) is often an acute affair, whereas managing chronic pain requires additional dimensions.
A typical multidisciplinary pain management team may include: medical practitioners, pharmacists, clinical psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, physician assistants, nurses, and dentists. The team may also include other mental health specialists and massage therapists. Pain sometimes resolves quickly once the underlying trauma or pathology has healed, and is treated by one practitioner, with drugs such as pain relievers (analgesics) and occasionally also anxiolytics.
Effective management of chronic (long-term) pain, however, frequently requires the coordinated efforts of the pain management team. Effective pain management does not always mean total eradication of all pain. Rather, it often means achieving adequate quality of life in the presence of pain, through any combination of lessening the pain and/or better understanding it and being able to live happily despite it. Medicine treats injuries and diseases to support and speed healing. It treats distressing symptoms such as pain and discomfort to reduce any suffering during treatment, healing, and dying.
The task of medicine is to relieve suffering under three circumstances. The first is when a painful injury or pathology is resistant to treatment and persists. The second is when pain persists after the injury or pathology has healed. Finally, the third circumstance is when medical science cannot identify the cause of pain. Treatment approaches to chronic pain include pharmacological measures, such as analgesics (pain killer drugs), antidepressants, and anticonvulsants; interventional procedures, physical therapy, physical exercise, application of ice or heat; and psychological measures, such as biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy.