pain glossary


Arthritis
Inflammation of a joint. There are over 100 types of arthritis, with the most common forms being: rheumatoid, osteoarthritis, psoriatic, septic, and autoimmune diseases whereby the body attacks itself. For example, septic arthritis is caused by joint infection, while there is also an uncommon form of gout caused by the formation of rhomboid crystals of calcium pyrophosphate.

Back Pain (Dorsopathy)
Sudden onset or chronic pain originating from the muscles, nerves, bones, or joints in the spine. It may be felt intermittently, stay in one place, or radiate to other areas. It may be a dull, sharp, piercing ache or even a burning sensation. This pain may be felt in the neck (and may radiate into the arm), in the upper or lower back (and may radiate into the leg), and might include symptoms other than pain such as weakness, numbness or tingling.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
A form of peripheral neuropathy and painful condition whereby the median nerve is compressed at the wrist, leading to discomfort, paresthesias, and muscle weakness in both the forearm and hand. CTS is more commonly found in women than in men, and has a peak incidence around age 42 although it can occur at any age. Due to increase in office jobs, CTS has widely increased in the general public.

Dysesthesia
An abnormal and unpleasant sensation, whether spontaneous or evoked, such as burning, wetness, itching, electric shock, pins and needles. It is often described as “feeling like acid under the skin” in any bodily tissue, but mostly the mouth, scalp, skin, or legs.

Fibromyalgia (Fibrositis)
Inflammation of the fibrous or connective tissue, especially surrounding the muscles. Symptoms include painful response to pressure as well as fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. Fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to pain, leading to the use of the alternative term “fibromyalgia syndrome” for the condition. Diagnosis is difficult and often missed since symptoms of fibromyalgia are generalized. It does not cause body damage or deformity, however undue fatigue and depression plagues the majority of patients, and sleep disorders are common.

Muscle Strain (Pulled Muscles)
An injury to a muscle in which muscle fibers tear as a result of overstretching. The equivalent injury to a ligament is a called a sprain. Typical symptoms of a strain include localized pain, stiffness, swelling, inflammation, and bruising around the strained muscle. Strains can happen to anyone and are not restricted to athletes; strained muscles can result even from bending down to tie a shoe. Nevertheless, individuals who play sports are more at risk of developing a strain.

Musculoskeletal Pain
Pain in the muscles and bones of the musculoskeletal system – the organ system which provides form, stability, and movement to the human body. Its causes can vary. For example, muscle tissue can be damaged with the wear and tear of daily activities, while trauma to an area (jerking movements, auto accidents, accidental falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct blows to the muscle) can also cause musculoskeletal pain. Other causes may include repetitive movements, overuse, and prolonged immobilization. Changes in posture or poor body mechanics may bring about spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening, therefore causing other muscles to be misused and become painful.

Osteoarthritis
Most often occurring in persons age 65 or older, osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease often accompanied by pain and stiffness after prolonged activity or inactivity. It is characterized by degeneration of cartilage inside the joints, swelling of bone at the margins, and changes in the soft tissue surfaces within joints (synovial membrane).

Rheumatoid Arthritis
An inflammatory disorder which attacks the joints producing an inflammation that often progresses to destruction of the articular cartilage and ankylosis of the joints. It causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. Most common in subcutaneous tissue under the skin. Different from other kinds of arthritis as it occurs in a symmetrical pattern (ie. if one knee is inflamed, so is the other).

Runner's Knee
A pain in the knee most often associated with running, as it is usually caused by overuse through repeated bending of the knee which irritates the nerves of the kneecap. However, other causes may include overstretched tendons, direct trauma to the knee(like an accidental fall), misalignment of the bones or the kneecap itself, problems with the feet (flat feet or overpronation), or weak thigh muscles.

Tendonitis
Inflammation of the tendon which connects the muscle to the bone; Symptoms can vary from pain and stiffness to the local area of the tendon, or a burning that surrounds the whole joint around the inflamed tendon. With this condition, the pain is usually worse during and after activity, and the tendon and joint area can become stiffer the following day as swelling interrupts the movement of the tendon.

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
A condition whereby the outer part of the elbow becomes painful and tender, most often resulting from overuse or strain. Although called "tennis elbow", this condition is not restricted to tennis players. Anyone who does a lot of work involving lifting at the elbow or repetitive movements at the wrist is susceptible to this type of pain.