Issues Magazine

Articles about Pain

The History of Pain Relief and Anaesthesia

By Steven Semiatin

History abounds with attempts to achieve pain relief, and they will continue into the future.

Pain is the way our body lets us know there is something wrong. It is the defence mechanism the body developed to ensure we seek help and treatment for the pain’s root cause, or to make sure we journey through life as safely as possible.

A regular contributor to History Magazine, Steven Semiatin has served as a special education teacher for 30 years. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2012 issue of History Magazine. © Steven Semiatin.

Understanding and Managing Pain

By Natalia Valentino

Very few people live life without pain at some stage. Our understanding of pain has improved but it is still not managed well.

Pain is a very common experience. At the same time it is a very personal experience that can affect your body and your mind.

Pain affects all people differently – even the same person can respond to pain differently depending on the situation. Just think about how sore a paper cut can be, yet rugby players have been known to continue playing the game with a broken bone.

Some useful resources on pain management can be found at and

Rehabilitation and Pain

By Geoffrey Speldewinde

Rehabilitation is part of the common approach to managing pain conditions. Each experience of pain is unique, and calls for the expertise of several health disciplines.

Rehabilitation is all about learning to function better with a particular problem. Where pain is concerned, rehabilitation may reduce its severity.

The Experience of Pain

By Sue King

What is pain, why does it happen and why do some people continue to experience pain when pain subsides in other people?

Pain is a common symptom that accompanies many accidental injuries, conditions and diseases – indeed it is the most usual reason people seek health care – and it is an expected outcome of surgery.

Acute pain was an evolutionary necessity for human survival. Some people are born without a pain system, and their lives are generally short because of complications associated with trauma or injuries.

I Can Feel Your Pain

By John Bradshaw

Empathy for someone else’s pain shares common characteristics with synaesthesia, a sensory condition where individuals can smell music or taste colours.

In the late 1990s I was contacted by a widow who wanted to know whether there was a scientific explanation for some unusual experiences of her late husband. It seemed that whenever he witnessed someone injure themselves, or show sudden pain, he would involuntarily experience immediate and often excruciating pain in the same body part. Thus if his wife accidentally hit her thumb while hammering, he would call out: “Don’t do that, it really hurts”. He really felt it, she said.

This article, published in Australasian Science (, is adapted from a script broadcast on Ockham’s Razor that has been updated with additional information from Bernadette Fitzgibbon.

10,000 Faces of Pain

By Coralie Wales

The campaign initiated by Chronic Pain Australia last year aims to increase understanding and reduce the cost of what has been an “invisible” issue.

Progress in Pain Research

By Michael Vagg

Pain research is beginning to mature, with the promise of new treatments for people living with pain.

Imagine being able to change what you eat to reduce long-term back pain, or to have a brain scan to see how your psychology treatment is progressing. Would you have a gene test before surgery so that you receive the painkillers that suit you best? These scenarios are likely to become part of pain treatment regimes in the next few years.

Kids Get Chronic Pain Too

By Kathleen Cooke

A holistic plan is essential, including physical, emotional and social support, to manage chronic pain in adolescents and children.

I feel like my foot is on fire and I cannot walk on it. Nothing helps, no one knows why, no one believes me. – TJ, aged 12

TJ rolled her ankle playing netball. Although it was strapped and she rested as recommended, her ankle pain worsened. She had a normal X-ray and MRI scan but her foot changed colour and went cold. She could not sleep, concentrate or go to school. Her Mum was forced to take time off to attend multiple appointments and look after her.

How does hypnosis relieve pain?

By Allan Cyna and Marion Andrew

And how much pain does it actually relieve?

Hypnosis in one form or another has been around for thousands of years, but until recently, evidence to support its biological and clinically powerful effects have been lacking. Today hypnosis is used by clinicians around the world to help manage pain, childbirth, phobia and anxiety – particularly in children.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is thought to be a state of conscious awareness which most people experience transiently many times each day.

Hypnotic experiences and responses tend to involve:

Women Report Feeling Pain More Intensely than Men, Says Study of Electronic Records

By Bruce Goldman

Women report more-intense pain than men in virtually every disease category, according to Stanford University School of Medicine investigators who mined a huge collection of electronic medical records to establish the broad gender difference to a high level of statistical significance.

The study, published online in the Journal of Pain, suggests that stronger efforts should be made to recruit women subjects in population and clinical studies in order to find out why this gender difference exists.

Republished with permission from the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs.

Pain and Palliative Care

By Jennifer Tieman (1) and Deb Rawlings (2)

Palliative care professionals have a unique role to play in the management of pain.

Pain can be a problem at any time throughout a person’s life. Imagine (or remember) the pain of a broken limb, an infected tooth, a protracted or difficult childbirth or of a chronic back condition. For many of us, pain is not something that we have to think about, or have to cope with, but for others it can be a big part of their lives.

Painkillers: There’s No Such Thing when Pain Persists

By Elizabeth Carrigan

There is a role for opioid medication for all types of severe pain, but the evidence for its use with long-term persistent pain is more uncertain and the side-effects greater.

Pain is an unpleasant sensory experience associated with real or possible harm. Pain is the body’s warning system, designed to get us to take action and repair the body part that hurts.

For simple pain, such as a sprained ankle, taking paracetamol and resting the ankle for a period is usually sufficient. Most people have experienced this type of normal acute pain.

National Pain Strategy: Pain Management for All Australians

By National Pain Summit Initiative

Australia’s National Pain Strategy was developed amidst a growing awareness of the many costs of pain to individuals and communities.

One in five Australians, including children and adolescents, will suffer chronic pain in their lifetime and up to 80 per cent of people living with chronic pain are missing out on treatment that could improve their health and quality of life. The High Price of Pain report, conducted by Access Economics in collaboration with the MBF Foundation and the University of Sydney Pain Management Research Institute, estimated that chronic pain costs the Australian economy $34 billion per annum and is the nation’s third most costly health problem.

Reproduced with permission from Painaustralia’s National Pain Strategy Executive Summary. References available at

Painaustralia’s website,, provides a range of resources for consumers and health professionals.


By Sally Woollett

Editor, Issues

An overview of what's in this edition of Issues.

Pain has been part of the human experience for as long as we’ve been around. It’s surprising, then, that widely agreed definitions of pain and associations devoted to its study didn’t really emerge in number until just under 40 years ago.

Carrots that stick: Rethinking pleasure and pain as human motivators

By Dyani Lewis

Social psychologist Prof E. Tory Higgins discusses his model of how humans interpret and appreciate reward and punishment, and offers unusual approaches to motivate people to action.