Pain is an unpleasant sensation and emotional experience that is linked to or represents a perceived threat or actual injury.

Health professionals use different terms for different types of pain.

These names often relate to how long people have been experiencing pain (acute or persistent) and/or what structures might be involved in the pain sensation (e.g. neuropathic, inflammatory, nociceptive).

More information about pain

People experience pain when a signal travels through specialised nerve fibres to their brain. Often the cause of pain is obvious, a broken leg, or a bruise. But there are times when the source of pain is unseen like joint pain. Sometimes you cannot identify the cause of a person’s pain.

Initially pain might be caused by tissue damage and can be a vital part of your body’s protective system (like making sure you don’t walk on a broken leg).  However, we also know that people can feel pain without an injury (like in phantom limb pain) but also an injury without pain.

In some of cases the pain that we experience and how it makes us feel and behave, goes on longer than is necessary.  This can delay and reduce how well and quickly we recover and return to the activities we want and need to do.

For lots of muscle, joint and bone symptoms that follow a new onset or injury or both, they can settle on their own within a few days to 6 weeks.  There are other people and situations that experience longer lasting or ongoing pain.

Therefore the experience of pain is real but it is a complicated mix of

  • what happens in the body,
  • what happens in the brain,
  • where the pain experience happens and
  • what our experience of pain has been in the past

Step 2 provides further information on the factors that can affect muscle, joint and bone concerns.

Additional links and information

For further information, the following presentations are available:

Understanding Pain What to do about it in less than five minutes:

TEDxAdelainde – Lorimer Moseley – Why Things Hurt

The mysterious science of pain – Joshua W Pate

Pain areas