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What is pain?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023


Physician in front of computer with patient x-ray highlighting pain in knee joint

Pain can be your body’s response to an injury, but it also serves to protect your body from danger. For example, if you put your hand on a hot stove, your body will generate a pain response and force you to take your hand off the hot stove. Unfortunately, some people develop continued pain without any triggers.


In 2018, the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) revised their official definition of pain. It now defines pain as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage,[1]” and goes on the describe six aspects related to pain (click on this link from the IASP for more information.)


Previously, the definition in 1979 stated pain was “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage[1]” by the Subcommittee on Taxonomy. The biggest change is that the IASP now also recognizes that pain can start without an actual injury. This is likely the most frustrating fact for a patient especially if their doctor defines pain with the prior to 2018 definition.

For my patients, I let them know that their pain is real and why it started has nothing to do with what they experience. I employ my Pain Unlayering Protocol to better understand their pain experience and come up with a customized treatment plan (see my blog post about the Pain Unlayering Protocol for more information.)


Request an appointment on my contact page and see how the Pain Unlayering Protocol can work for you.


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