How Do You Define Pain?

How Do You Define Pain?

When you try to describe it to your doctor, how you describe it could vary—dramatically—from how another patient might.

The International Association of Pain is looking to shrink that difference—and you can help.

The IASP Definition of Pain Task Force is asking for written comments on the proposed new definition of pain and accompanying notes. The Task Force will review all comments and provide a final recommendation to the IASP Council in November 2019. By participating, you will be contributing to changes that will have a significant impact on the future of our profession, research, and patient care. This form will only take a few minutes, and your responses are anonymous.

Here’s the survey link.

Thank you for participating. The purpose of this form is to provide the Definition of Pain Task Force with written comments on the proposed new definition of pain and accompanying notes. Please take a few moments to review the current and proposed definition of pain on the next page.

IASP works to support research, education, clinical treatment, and better patient outcomes for all pain conditions with the goal of improving pain relief worldwide. With more than 7,000 members representing 125 countries, 96 national chapters, and 24 Special Interest Groups (SIGs), IASP fosters the exchange of ideas and education to advance the field of pain science. Membership is open to all professionals involved in research, diagnosis, or treatment of pain.

The Association is governed by an international Council composed of officers and councilors elected by the membership. Members may also serve on committees, task forces, and working groups.

When we read the comments section of the National Pain Report, often chronic pain patients complain—at times vociferously—that providers, friends and family and others don’t understand what they are going through.

Participating in surveys like this can help close that gap.

We encourage you to take the survey, and as always, to share your comments about this story and others.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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It is unbelievable that those of us with conditions that cause terrible pain , are treated like all we want is to get high from our pain medication .The medication doesn’t make you high they give you ability to live life without so much pain ! Work eat sleep love be present for family and friends if you have any left ! ! We aren’t bad people folks In reality not what is made up for some reason ? People who have conditions that cause severe pain Every minute of the day get relief for a short period of time to live what life they have left . Quality of life ! !!!!!!!!After they have been been treated like a common criminal for taking medicine that makes their quality of life better . Here’s a Revalation we are taking pain medication because it works for pain and no one should have live with horrible pain ! Period ! Do NO HARM ! We can be bedridden or we can have our conditions treated By our Doctor! Hippa laws don’t include doctor pain patient confidentiality . Or pharmacy pain patient confidentiality !

The FDA are punishing pain patients not the people that have caused this issue !

Timothy Mason

Ever had an abscessed tooth?.You wanted it fixed yesterday. They always come on a Friday night. Imagine dentists took Friday and Monday off too. Every sprained an ankle or cut a finger to the bone? Your spouse or insignificant other ran every red light for you. Or how about the minor case of food poising? You can’t even keep water down Makes you know you are alive.
Put the cell phone down and take a good look at granny or grandpaw. They don’t look so cheerful do they. They need someone to listen to them not look thru them.

Imagine all the things above, pain, continuing for days weeks months or in some cases a lifetime. Pain will come to everyone at some time in their lives. Mankind has developed remedies for all sorts of pain. The worst pain is intractable pain, the kind that never goes away. It only subsides for a brief period thanks to science. You have heard it said: “Necessity is the mother of invention”

No some Government agencies do not like mother and have gone against her. These folks are in need of a severe spanking.That day is coming. Do you remember when you thought you got by doing something wrong? Mother does not forget and when you least expect it, mother brings it up. That day is rapidly approaching.

Many of the evil doers are in for a long spanking and a great deal of humiliation in front of millions of peo
Pain is a terrible thing to endure for a long time. U.S. POWs tell of pain for breakfast, pain for lunch and pain for dinner.
It seems that nothing is happening to stop those that withhold pain medicine but let me say this. It takes years to get those boxes of evidence you see lawyers carting into court houses.

When every i dotted and every t is crossed the hammer will fall on PROP, CDC and those that should have spoken and did not.

Keep Watching.

Tim Mason


I tried to decipher it a couple of days ago then tried again today. It’s not for us it’s for people who haven’t been through 24+ years of indescribable ever changing pain.

Here, clamp a locked set of pliers on a limb and then tell them:
“Oh by the way there’s no way of releasing that and here’s some 400mg Motrin that should take care of the discomfort. No, that’s not pain your feeling. Wait a couple of years and then we’ll see if physical therapy will help. Since you may go out and try to purchase something illegal to help with the discomfort you’ll have to participate in a random drug test even though you’re 60+ years old. No, I’m not saying you would or that you don’t have pain, CDC put out a “Guideline” and I have been “mandated” to follow and I don’t want to lose my license. You have more concerns and questions, I think you need to leave and find another doctor.”

I still can’t figure out what they want in the survey. Luckily I’ve had a couple of good doctors over the years that have made my life bearable. Of course I had a new doctor a couple of years back. At the first appointment he said he wasn’t going to give me one of my medications that I have been taking for over 20 years because I might overdose and you will stop taking it now. I spent months in the land of insanity and finally went to a previous doctor who emphasized and cared about me.

So tell me, what is pain?

“Anointed”!!! Dr. R. is anointed?! Wow. Just….wow.

Mr/Dr. Of ? Rodrigues,
You have NO idea what it feels like to live with chronic pain. Migraine is not tissue related, yet mine incapacitate me. For 30 years I’ve tried, in this order, laying in a dark room all day, distraction, aspirin, NSAIDs, muscle stretching, meditation, acupuncture, muscle relaxers, praying, food elimination diet, cafergot, Imitrex and all it’s knockoffs, Botox injections. Not anything works as well as opioids. All I want is to be able to: go to work, enjoy my family go to church, grocery shop…the everyday activities people like you take for granted. I won’t even go into my other chronic conditions, but I will say that I’m fed up with other people, who are not pain management doctors, trying to tell me what to do to treat my pain. Period.

First off I didn’t appreciate the survey with the sneaky sales pitch. Secondly I think this is kind of dumb because there are so many different types of pain I don’t think anyone could adequately define it unless preceded by a specific kind, like subjective, emotional, good pain, bad pain, physical, then you have your descriptions and they could apply to one or multiple types of pain. Debilitating, relentless or stabbing, pinching, etc yada yada. I think you get my meaning so no point in listing hundreds of examples which I’m sure anyone past 50 years of age could do with ease, probably because they have experienced many themselves?

Winn Robin Waters

Who is the “Task Force”

Doctor Stephen Rodriguez what kind of doctor are you? Just wondering from your comments. I would say guessing chiropractor. But I do agree with you about being your own physician. But sometimes that’s not possible.
Bob Krebs love your comment of Humpty dumpty’s response “the word means what I say it means nothing more nothing less.”


I agree with ALL these comments. We are dealing with people who have complicated a situation in every way they can think to complicate it. An addict abuses drugs and takes them to escape life… they need help, emotional and/or psychiatric help. Chronic pain patients take drugs responsibly because we want some quality of life. Many of us are unable to tolerate medications due to the MANY side effects to nerve drugs and NSAIDS or have multiple conditions. It is THAT SIMPLE.

Bob Krebs

My understanding of the definition is that pain is due to tissue damage or threat of tissue damage and the rest is psychological! Having had Cluster Headaches for many years and still have migraines, neither of which is from tissue damage or the threat of tissue damage, and yet neither is psychological, but physical! This makes no sense at all! Makes one suspicious that they are trying to define away anything but tissue damage pain! Of course, they say psychological pain is real to the patient and should be treated, but how soon will “people” start saying if it is psychological pain, narcotics are not needed, instead, see a psychologist or a psychiatrist!

I usually don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, but I really see this as a slippery slope of a definition!

To paraphrase Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, “a word means what I say it means, nothing more, nothing less”!

Stephen S. Rodrigues MD

The pains we all are experiencing, an infinite concept so it’s impossible to put into words.

Pain is normal naturally disappear by building healing, curing, painkilling, cancer-killing, equalizing, miraculous mechanisms working perpetually perfect
-yet incomplete -
Mandatorily requiring Us to help optimize maximize expedite built-in healing and caring mechanisms!

Your personal self-care routine is reviewed; 5/20 basic continuous, hourly, daily, life-long maintenance requirements:
Sleep - 10 hours/day
Intake - Diet Minerals Magnesium Copper Zinc etc
Mind-Mental-Emotional-Spirit Balance.
Family, Social, Teams of Support Members.
Muscle Maintenance and Balance to keep up maximum peak power vitality and optimizing miraculous healing capacity.
30-60′ of Exercise & Work to Build Muscle Tissues (INJURY-RE-INJURY)
30-60″ of Stretching (INJURY-RE-INJURY) Yoga, Pulling, Traction and Needling to release Healing for Muscle Tissue Rebuilding. Stretching DAILY Pulls-Out Tight Toxic Deadly Muscle Knots, Kinks, Scars, Spasms Releases Stem Cells; Natural Regenerative Tissue Finalizers of Cellular Repairing.

muscles are the only tissues that require continuous surveillance applying restoration or
dry rot choking you to death!

The 5 Muscle Release Regeneration Revitalizing tools, ways, and techniques:
1. Stretching; Spray and Stretching
2. Hands-on Intensive Deep Muscle Soft Myofascial Tissue Massages.
3. Hands-on Intensive Osteopathic and Chiropractic Muscle Tissue Release Options
4. Acupuncture, Dry Needling, Needle Intramuscular per Chan Gunn, MD.
5. Travell-Simons Trigger Point

Today your doctors have the privilege to omit you from their mind prescribing you bags of opium cocaine derivatives and setting you up to be mutilated FDA approved Health and Human Services permitted DEA protected!

1st do no harm, obligatory warning - your doctors have been anointed in white coats the creation of TRUE cult religion!
May I suggest YOU become YOUR own “Physicians.”


A new definition of pain? Are they kidding? There already exist multiple adjectives to help in describing pain, what are they looking for, new words? Like frezit pain? This is another CYA study someone’s getting paid money to conduct so it can appear as though they care. Pain is a feeling and feelings can be hard to describe, but we don’t need a new definition. We need relief!


This survey is NOT for patients,,,,it’s for healthcare professionals…someone made a mistake here

I can’t believe this is being asked. Everyone in life at some point in time even for a brief moment like a paper cut or a scraped knee has felt pain. Now there has to be Limited description for it. Muscle pain is different from nerve pain , neuropathies different from bone infection or sepsis. Osteoarthritis pain that’s different from rheumatoid. broken bones different from joint problems. Now we’re asked for defined terminology of language for pain! Deep ache, Sharp, burning, incapacitating these are some of the words that we already have. how can you create a new language for pain? And why should a person have to fit what they feel into a language for medical treatment from a provider to accommodate language of what the provider deems the correct answer? Is this not going in circles? This is as bad as face chart for pain or number level. This is all we have, when do you take the person for their own words? This is like trying to Define a person’s faith. If the sky is blue for that individual then why argue that it’s green BC they believe it’s blue. It is what the person knows what it is to them. Are we going to take the hitting each other and say this is how my pain feels get the point across?

judith petree

The suspicious, accusing, and/or dismissive way in which I and other chronic pain patients are treated by providers these days only adds to the daily unrelenting physical pain we experience. Being in continuous pain with no help from someone with the courage and compassion to treat our pain appropriately with little chance of finding that provider is immensely demoralizing and detrimental to our overall health, leaving one with such a sense of futility that it is no wonder some patients take their own lives rather than suffer another minute of intolerable suffering. I believe ignoring the fact that chronic pain has such major negative effects on a person’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual life amounts to nothing less than abuse, negligence, and malpractice by those we should be able to trust in partnering with us in delivering good healthcare. As a retired RN, I am well aware of the importance of such a relationship.


Do you honestly think that most of our “Government Officials” are going to understand the wording of what the current proposal states? If you think that even one of them would ask what “nociceptor” or “dysesthesias” means then you are mistaken. While this type of wording may be fine for those in the medical community, it might not be as helpful for the layman.
I have a feeling after all the pain community has endured that this is just another ploy so that the “powers that be” can change the definition of what pain is and in turn tell us “we are no longer in pain by definition” which might sound paranoid but considering all that has been done to us already, I put nothing past our Government officials.


I just did the survey. It’s fast.

I had a hard time with the technical terminology, and am not sure I understood it all even though I googled some of the terms,

but I basically said that my pain is my pain, and it’s subjective, and my patient-doctor relationship should not be interfered with, and that w/o opioids, I’d have killed myself years ago, and almost did kill myself during my forced taper.

I also mentioned phantom pain suffered by amputees, which proves that pain does not need to be related to any particular tissue. Just b/c tests don’t show anything doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there.

I hope others will do the survey

I did the survey although it was not what I expected. I found the ‘new definition’ of pain to be mild and mostly non descriptive.


I took the survey and it was a joke. The first few questions seemed to be geared to trying to identify you as a pain professional, not just a regular person. They weren’t looking for a definition that DESCRIBES the pain (how it feels). It was poorly designed and looking for an intellectual, passionless definition that is the opposite of the real definition: unending, excruciating agony that interferes with the ability to function!

Wish they had asked things like “Describe your pain and how it feels.” Oh well.


Given that people have different pain thresholds, pain cannot be objectified.
It’s how much any individual hurts and how that hurt impact their lives.

I used to think that I have a low pain theshold b/c I am so sensitive to everything, like the princess and the pea. But now I think I have a very high threshold b/c I’ve lived with so much pain of all different types from so many parts of my body, for so long.

But I will look at the survey and take it if it makes sense.

We need to have input to what controls our lives.

Amen Brian. Pain destroys our quality of life. We’re just trying to live.


This survey appears to be intended for health care professionals NOT PATIENTS.


May I please add, read the article released by ABC news 8/16 in ref. to Michigan opiod rx post surgery. Go down 3/4 to that particular paragraph. If that does not make your head spin what will. Either the doc can’t explain or the patient can’t understand. I doubt that’s the case. I guess we are all just stupid, that must be how pills ” find their way into the community ” So the shot is now, either the patient is A unable to explain the pain, B unable to comprehend instructions and C, careless enough to allow pain meds to actually get up and find their way to the community. Hhhmmmm. I disagree. But if it makes acadamia feel justified go ahead. Your really not fooling anyone. Illegal drugs, not pain patients !!!


Mr Coghlin,

How ironic is it that the government now wants to (covertly) determine how pain sufferers react to pain?

A person who has had great loss due to chronic pain should react with disbelief. The layers of loss are deep and complex. So how can pain be measured?

Deborah Baron

Why is the government evaluating pain. That is what our medical professionals are for!

Rosalind Rivera

How is this survey going to help us with the issue of pain meds and how long it will be before the insanity of reduction or complete denial of pain medications???


People with serious pain issues know many pain adjectives. People with serious pain need a pain chart with increments between the whole numbers.
The entire country is becoming disabled from pain and autoimmune issues. Might want rethink this, politicians. Who will be left to support the country when the majority is disabled from pain?
How many could work with proper pain management? Many more than one could know.

Michael Smith

What a joke.I was paralyzed by cancer 9 years ago.I am in constant pain,and the dose is about 1/3 what it used to be(oxycodone).I have to pay cash to see pain doctor despite having Medicare and Medicaid.(200$).Please contact me with advice( am in Fort Lauderdale area.


Are you serious ? A task force to evaluate what physicians have been doing for a couple thousand years ! The sad news is that politics now run everything, not doctors. Failure to manage a ridiculously out of control illegal drug trade on our streets is causing a political end run to deflect responsibility. Repeatedly academic and media articles site figures released by the CDC. Let’s see, fentanyl heroin cocaine methamphetamine and / or any combination of the above. Nope neither I nor any chronic pain patient I know used those drugs. Yet all we hear is opiates. If you do not start with the truth how do you expect to conclude with anything resembling a solution. Here is my world, they ( my care team at THE VA ) already know. They just look at me with that blank robotic stare, not because they don’t understand but because THEY DON’T CARE !!! Review your medical records, see what is said about you, prepare to be disappointed. I was a Navy Corpsman and tactical medic most of my career, my beloved field of compassion and care for the ill and injured is gone. Get em in, get em out, keep cost down and ignore their complaints of pain. Because we all have heard, nobody dies of pain. Or do they ?? In my experience dear friends death is not the saddest thing I’ve seen.


This is [edit] just another way to not treat actual pain patients. It hurts like hell, yeah it’s all in my mind. NOT!!! Its because I fell or moved wrongtripped, stumbled or wore a joint or nerve bundle down to cause my pain. Had A car. Crash or other in intentional or unintentional injury. There by causing my pain
;yeah I said intentional as in a high risk game, adventure or job. I didn’t mean to get hurt but I always knew it was possible. Never thinking the pain would last the rest of my life. I’m not a junkie or an addict. Opoids helped bring a state relief and aome normalcy to my Iife. Being denied these drugs has brought me to a state of imbalance and AGONY to my final year.


I have had many surgeries he has been to 4 out of 7 ..what can he do Trust me I have tried everything.. Had a spinal cord STIMULATOR for neck because of infections . I had it for 2 years took it out now 90 percent pain free ..Now back has been really bad for I guess 6 months no more injections I am fighting .. I try to walk well here in Chicago is bad But I can go to the gym everyday .. Weird .. I really don’t understand .no one does I am on 1 medication .. The same for years . not really work in PT .I THINK I AM GETTING WORSE MY PM ..KNOWS ALL WHAT CAN HE DO NOTHING INJECTIONS GAVE ME ARTHITIS.. PLUS MORE SO WHAT CAN I DO .. ALL MY DOCTORS KNOW

Bram Judy Cast

Pain is what destroys quality of life.