Sep 23, 2020
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Scientists have changed the definition of pain for the first time in 40 years

Pain can be unique and individual, differing in many parameters. The accumulation of data on pain over the past decades has led to a change in the definition of this concept.

The International Association for the Study of Pain (ISAP) has revised its definitions of pain to reflect new knowledge about the effects of various factors on pain. New detailed definition and accompanying explanations published by the journal Pain

ISAP’s new definition of pain: “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling, or resembling actual or potential tissue damage.”

This new basic definition may seem similar to the old one: “Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience accompanied by actual or possible tissue damage, or a condition whose verbal description corresponds to such damage.” However, the new definition includes six more explanations, that is, it is much broader.


  • Pain is always a personal experience, influenced to varying degrees by biological, psychological and social factors.
  • Pain and nociception are different phenomena, pain cannot be the result of activity only in neurons. (Nociception is an activity in sensory neurons that is associated with the sensation of pain, ed.).
  • People understand the concept of pain in connection with life experience.
  • If a person communicates that he is feeling pain, this should be treated with respect.
  • Although pain usually plays an adaptive role, it can have side effects on function [организма] and psychological state.
  • Verbal description is just one of several options for reflecting pain, and not being able to talk about it does not negate the possibility that a person or animal is feeling pain.

“Pain is not just a sensory symptom. This is a complex condition, which is important to understand for the correct conduct of scientific research, “- said the co-author of the new definition Srinivasa Raja, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, co-author of the new definition.

Scientists note that the new definition of pain reflects knowledge about pain types that were not described 40 years ago. These include nocyplastic pain, in which the source of stimulation of pain receptors is not understood (this happens in fibromyalgia), and neuropathic pain.

The authors believe that changing the definition helps clinicians to adequately treat pain in children, the elderly and the disabled. In addition, it can improve the availability of health care for some.

“Pain cannot be simplified to a scale of 0 to 10. Instead, it requires an assessment of the person in general, taking into account his cognitive, psychological and social factors, which are very important for the treatment of pain,” said Raja.

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