Explain pain

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an ‘unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage’.

This is in contrast to the more dated view that pain is a mechanical sensor mechanism which is directly proportional to the amount of damage in the tissues.

The current view is that the brain will create a pain experience when it concludes your body is in danger and you need to do something about it (Moseley and Butler 2014). This shows that pain is more complex and can be present, absent, increased or decreased depending upon a whole variety of factors in addition to what might be going on in the tissues of the body.

Pain Australia (2019) describe acute pain as that which is present in the short term and is a warning to the body to seek help. Chronic pain is that which lasts beyond expected healing time, which is often 3 months.

Acute pain can be useful as a protective mechanism to allow the body to get protection or allow time for the healing process to occur.

Chronic pain is a big problem in Australia and around the world. One fifth of all Australians live with chronic pain (Blyth et at 2001). It is the third most costly health condition following cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal conditions (also associated with pain) (Pain Australia 2019).

For further information about pain, view the ‘related links’.


Blyth et al, 2001. Chronic pain in Australia: a prevalence study. Pain 89:127-134.
Moseley GL and Butler DS 2014, The Explain Pain Handbook: Protectometer.
Adelaide Pain Australia 2019, What is Pain? Available from: https://www.painaustralia.org.au/about-pain/what-is-pain (26 August 2019)
Pain Australia 2019, Painful Facts. Available from: https://www.painaustralia.org.au/about-pain/painful-facts (26 August 2019)