Health conditions


What is pain?

The International Association for the Study of Pain (external site) defines pain as 'a unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage'.

Pain warns us that our body is under threat and initially helps to protect us. However, pain can occur without injury too.

What causes pain?

Simple or acute pain is usually a response to an injury or illness, such as:

  • back strain
  • a sprained ankle
  • appendicitis.

Chronic pain (also referred to as complex or persistent pain) is when the physical injury or illness is nearly or fully healed, but the pain persists.

In some cases, chronic pain can occur without evidence of injury, for example:

We do not yet understand all the reasons why pain persists in these cases but persistent pain is real. Pain or hurt does not mean harm in certain instances and staying active is important.

Treatment and management of pain

You are not alone – there is help. You can better manage your pain through getting the right help. This can include the right advice about how to manage the emotional and physical challenges associated with persistent pain and what treatments might help.

Doing little bits often, staying active, keeping engaged with work and loved ones are all important.

Your doctor may recommend specific medication.

Where to get help



This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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