PAIN by any other name is pain. It’s just how much of it you can tolerate before you seek help. Pain can be physical or emotional. It can impact your mood, lifestyle, relationships, job and sense of independence.

Physical pain can be caused by damaged nerves or muscles. Something as simple as standing up, sitting down, walking, lying down or standing in line can be intolerably painful.

While pain in itself is not a disease, it is an indication that something is wrong somewhere and you need to address it.

You might be able to brush off some of it but you should never ignore it completely or trivialise someone else’s pain just because you can’t imagine it.

Whatever it is, you should never tell someone that his/her pain “is all in your mind” as though he can switch it off just like that — it’s unkind and insensitive as everyone has a different threshold for pain.

What is mild to you could be excruciating for another person, and vice-versa.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a meter that can measure pain. Doctors and nurses use the rating system of one to 10 for you to describe your pain, one being very mild and 10 being excruciating. This helps somewhat but is sometimes far from accurate.

There are many words that can describe pain: Throbbing, dull ache, pinching, stabbing, aching, burning and piercing which can help the doctor in determining his or her diagnosis.


There are also those types of pain which are hard to describe. You just know it’s there but you can’t put your finger on it.

Some are a nuisance, like a mild headache, but some pain can be so debilitating that even a piece of cloth on the skin hurts.

Some pain can affect your sleep because lying down is uncomfortable and so painful that the pain interrupts your sleep.

Other types of pain can bring about physical symptoms like dizziness, nausea or weakness. All this can make you emotional. It can make you grouchy, angry, depressed and/or irritated. You become so short-tempered that being around you can be difficult for others.

If this happens to you or to the loved ones in your care, get help. See a doctor to find out the cause and get treatment for it. You may need a second or even third opinion but sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting enough rest and a few doses of over-the-counter medication.

In certain cases, you may need physiotherapy to help you manage your pain. If none of these work, it may require you to delve deeper into the matter to find out what is causing it. When you visit your doctor, be prepared to answer questions to help him with your diagnosis.


Pain is such a big topic that you just need to figure out how you can help yourself or the loved one in your care.

Uncontrolled and unmanaged pain can be hard to bear. Treatment and medication, together or separately, often helps.

In many cases, you may have to overhaul your lifestyle — from changing what you eat regularly and how often you exercise to the types of exercise you should be doing.

You should also be practical in your choices of exercise. For example, if your ankle and knees hurt, jogging or running might not be right for you.

Get advice from your doctor or physiotherapist and then discuss it with your trainer, if you have one. See if swimming is an option for you.

Left untreated, your pain may worsen. Of course all this depends on the cause of the pain.

If, for example, it has something to do with damaged nerves, it may worsen over time.

The pain may move from one place to another. It could go down your legs and feet, or it could move up to your shoulder and neck due to compensation of movement.

Remember that old song Dem Bones, the lyrics of which talk about bones that connect from your toe to your head? Well, it would be good to remember that when you deal with your pain.

Our bones are connected by muscles and nerves, among other things. If you don’t deal with one immediately, the other parts can also be affected in the long run.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. You can reach her at

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