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What is Pain?

Pain is complex. It is defined as ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage’ (IASP, 2015).

Pain is definitely not as simple as we once thought. Pain can be categorised as acute or chronic. Acute pain is defined as pain that is short lived and lasts less than three months. Chronic pain is pain that has been occurring longer than three months.

Pain is created by the brain. Many things influence the pain that we feel. For example, if you were in the jungle and being chased by a tiger, you would run for your life! If you roll your ankle in the process, you wouldn’t even feel it. The brain decides that pain in this instance is not useful. All you want to do is ruuuuuun and get to safety! If however you were at home and walking around the streets to get some fresh air, as you had just lost your job and had fight with your partner AND you slip and roll your ankle, then it would probably hurt like hell! Same injury, different feeling. Can you think of situations when you have had more or less pain than expected?

The following video is a fantastic 5 minute clip which talks about chronic pain and explains some of its complexities. Not all aspects of the video are appropriate for everyone, however you may be able to relate to some of the things that are discussed? Think about what may be applicable to you.

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Understanding Pain in less than 5 minutes, and what to do about it!

The Adelaide Pelvic Pain Network team has great training in pain neurophysiology. They have been taught by some of the best pain scientists in the world. They may recommend some of the following great resources to you, on your journey of rehabilitation:

  • Protectometer ( by Dr David Butler and Professor Lorimer Moseley

  • Explain Pain ( by Dr David Butler and Professor Lorimer Moseley

  • Why Pelvic Pain Hurts by Adriaan Louw, Sandra Hilton and Carolyn Vandyken

Research shows us that the more you know about pain and how it works, the better off you’ll be. So, take this on board and have a plan to understand your pain and how you are going to improve. Write your plan down and share it with your treating health professional/s.


International Association for the study of Pain (IASP), (2015), ‘IASP Taxonomy’. Retrieved 1/8/16 from

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