Glossary

We want you to understand the terms that we may use when discussing your diagnosis and treatment plan with you. We understand that we are speaking a different language and we want to help you understand the meaning behind the terminology. This glossary contains definitions for types of pain, conditions that we treat, and some of the tools we use to treat your pain.

This glossary is here as a resource for you. It is not intended to substitute for your physician. Please ask your physician or our clinical staff for clarification of anything you don’t understand as we work to alleviate your pain.

  • Acute pain – Pain that comes on quickly, can be severe, but lasts a fairly short time.
  • Allodynia – When something that normally isn’t painful causes pain (such as clothing touching the skin).
  • Analgesia – Not being able to feel pain while still conscious. Analgesic drugs relieve pain.
  • Anesthesia – Loss of feeling or awareness. A general anesthetic puts the person to sleep. A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of the body without making the person lose consciousness. Regional anesthesia numbs a larger part of the body such as a leg or arm, also without affecting consciousness.
  • Antidepressant – A type of drug used to treat depression. These types of drugs are sometimes used to treat related problems such as not being able to sleep or muscle spasms.
  • Autonomic nervous system – The part of the nervous system that controls the working of the heart muscle, the muscles of the digestive tract, the lungs and the glands.
  • Causalgia (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome II) – Intense burning pain and sensitivity to the slightest touch. The pain usually develops in a hand or foot, some distance away from a wound that has healed.
  • Central nervous system – The brain and the spinal cord.
  • Chronic pain – Pain that lasts more than a month after an injury heals. Chronic pain also refers to pain that comes back over months or is caused by something that is not expected to heal.
  • Clinical trials – Carefully planned and monitored tests of a new drug or treatment to see how effective it is.
  • Cognitive – Relating to the process of knowing or being aware. Cognition includes thinking, learning and judging.
  • Diabetic neuropathy – Numbness of pain and weakness in the hands, arms, feet or legs caused by the effects of diabetes on the nerves. Diabetes may cause nerve problems in every organ system.
  • EMG – EMG or Electromyogram is a special test to measure electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction. This is often done in tandem with Nerve Conduction Studies which examine how well and fast nerves can send electrical impulses to muscles.
  • Fibromyalgia – Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
  • Herpes zoster – Also called shingles, zona or zoster. See shingles or postherpetic neuralgia.
  • Hyperalgesia – Extreme sensitivity to pain.
  • Hyperpathia – An exaggerated response to something that causes pain, with continued pain after the cause of the pain is no longer present.
  • Migraine – A severe headache that may bring nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, blurred vision or other symptoms. Some migraines do not include headache. Some migraines are signaled by an aura or other sign that a migraine is coming on.
  • Myofascial pain – Pain or tenderness in a muscle.
  • Myositis – Swelling and tenderness of muscle tissue. Myositis can be caused by injuries, diseases or certain drugs.
  • Nerve blocks – Injections of anesthetic (or numbing) substances into nerves in order to reduce pain.
  • Neuralgia – Pain along the length of a nerve.
  • Neuropathic pain – Chronic pain due to an injury to the nervous system or a disease such as multiple sclerosis or stroke. Neuropathic pain can affect any nerve in the body. An estimated 2 million people in the United States have neuropathic pain.
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) – NSAIDS relieve pain and fever. They also reduce swelling and inflammation that may have been caused by injury or a disease.
  • Pain – An unpleasant feeling that may or may not be related to an injury, illness, or other bodily trauma. Pain is complex and differs from person to person.
  • Pain Management – The process of providing medical care to eliminate or reduce pain.
  • Paresthesia – This describes a numbing or tingling sensation of the skin, usually in the hands or feet.
  • Phantom Pain – Pain that follows some amputations. To the patient, the pain feels like it is coming from the missing body part.
  • Postherpetic Peuralgia – This is pain along nerves affected by an outbreak of shingles that lasts longer than a month.
  • Psychological Approaches – Ways of helping patient cope with pain and related emotions that can increase pain. These include biofeedback, imagery, hypnosis, relaxation training, stress management, cognitive-behavioral therapy and counseling.
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome I) – Similar to causalgia, this condition is a burning pain that appears with signs such as skin color changes, temperature changes, sweating or swelling. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is caused by injury to bone, joint, or soft tissues.
  • Sciatic nerve – The largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve begins in the lower back, passes through the buttock area down into the legs.
  • Shingles – An acute infection caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same virus as causes chickenpox. Shingles is most common after the age of 50 and the risk rises with advancing age.
  • Spasm – A brief, automatic jerking movement. When the muscle tightens, it can be quite painful. Spasms in various types of tissue may be caused by stress, medications, too much exercise or other factors.
  • Sympathetic nervous system – The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system make up the autonomic nervous system. The Sympathetic nervous system can speed up the heart rate, cause blood vessels to narrow and make the blood pressure go up.
  • Symptom – Any condition that a person considers to show the presence of a disease or abnormality. Only the patient can perceive the presence of a symptom. Symptoms include such things as pain, anxiety and fatigue. By contrast, a sign is objective evidence of disease. A rash, a fever or vomiting can all be seen by the patient, the doctor or an outside observer.
  • Syndrome – A set of signs and symptoms that tend to appear together. The combination of the linked signs and symptoms reflect the presence of a particular disease.
  • Trauma – An injury that can be either physical or emotional.
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia – Tenderness and swelling of the trigeminal nerve (the fifth cranial nerve). It causes bouts of intense, lightening pain in the lips, eye area, nose, scalp, forehead, gums, cheek and chin on one side of the face. A less common form of the disease causes a more constant, dull, burning or aching pain.
  • Trigger – Something that sets off a disease in people who are genetically predisposed to developing the disease or causes a certain symptom to occur in a person who has a disease.