Glossary - Manage Your Pain: Practical and Positive Ways of Adapting to Chronic Pain - Michael K. Nicholas, Allan Molloy, Lee Beeston, Lois Tonkin

Manage Your Pain: Practical and Positive Ways of Adapting to Chronic Pain - Michael K. Nicholas, Allan Molloy, Lee Beeston, Lois Tonkin (2012)


Analgesics Medicines that are used to reduce or relieve pain.

Anxiety Feeling very troubled by worries or fears. Often accompanied by physical symptoms like sweating, feelings of tension, heart racing, difficulty breathing and dry mouth.

Catastrophising A tendency to think the worst about situations. Such thoughts are usually extreme and negative (for example, ‘I’ll never be able to do this’). These thoughts are generally unhelpful.

Cognitions Thoughts; ways of thinking; perceptions.

Cognitive behavioural therapy A type of psychological treatment which helps you to examine the ways you think and respond to certain problem situations in your life. Then the treatment focuses on helping you to learn more helpful ways of thinking and responding to these situations and others that you might face.

Complex regional pain syndrome Also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy. May occur after an injury, particularly if a nerve is damaged. In addition to continuing pain there is one or more of the following symptoms: swelling, sweating and colour change which are present after the normal period of healing.

Coping strategies Thoughts and behaviours that are used to manage or cope with stressful situations, such as pain or demands made by other people.

Cordotomy Surgical interruption of nerve pathways in the spinal cord.

Depression In general, depression refers to feeling sad or despondent. It can be short-lived or be a pervading feeling that can last for months. At its most severe depression can be considered an illness, especially if it becomes debilitating. When more severe it can be accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, as well as loss of appetite and weight, disturbed sleeping, irritability, lethargy, and loss of interest in previously enjoyable aspects of life, including sex. If someone becomes very depressed and experiences the sorts of symptoms described here they should see their doctor. Such depressions place them at risk of suicide. Depression is treatable with both medications and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Discectomy Surgical removal of all or part of the intervertebral disc.

Facet joint Paired joints in the back that support and allow movement of the spine.

Intrathecal space Fluid filled space around the spinal cord and brain.

Kyphosis Excessive forward angulation of the spine.

Myofascial pain syndrome (also called fibrositis and myalgia). Usually characterised by areas of tenderness (sometimes called ‘trigger points’) across widespread areas of the body. People thought to have this syndrome usually report that passive stretch or strong voluntary contraction of their muscles is painful.

Nerve A part of the body that transmits electrical messages through the body. All instructions from the brain to the rest of the body are transmitted along nerves. All input to the brain, from the rest of the body, is transmitted along the nerves to different parts of the brain.

Neuropathic pain Pain that is associated with injury or disease of a nerve, the spinal cord or the brain. The pain is often described as being burning, shooting, stabbing or squeezing. In fact, any painful sensation that a person can experience may be described.

Neurotomy A procedure involving the cutting of a nerve.

Nociceptive pain This type of pain may be experienced after an injury to any part of the body. It is usually dull and aching. The pain is usually well localised—that is, in a well-defined area.

Opiate/Opioid Drugs that have an action like morphine.

Pain behaviours The ways in which people may behave when they are in pain. Common examples are making complaints about pain, taking analgesics, lying down during the day, rubbing the affected area of the body, grimacing, groaning, guarding the painful site, limping, using an aid such as a stick or a collar. These behaviours can also indicate to other people that the person is in pain.

Prolapsed intervertebral disc (commonly called a ‘slipped disc’) The disc doesn’t actually slip. Rather, a tear may develop in the disc and some of the material inside the disc may seep out and put pressure on a spinal nerve, leading to pain.

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy See Complex regional pain syndrome.

Reinforcer A reward or acknowledgment of an achievement following something you have done. It is usually seen as something desirable, but its effect is to encourage the person to repeat the behaviour or action that led to the reinforcer, in the expectation that the reinforcer will be obtained again. If the behaviour is not repeated, the reinforcer was not very effective. Almost anything can be a reinforcer. It can be something tangible—such as a cup of coffee or a night out—or less obvious—like giving credit for an achievement or recognising an achievement. Simply achieving a goal can also be a reinforcer and an encouragement to keep going. The withdrawal of something unpleasant can also act as a reinforcer. This is called ‘negative reinforcement’. Thus, if something eases your pain you will probably use it again (because it worked before). The reduction in pain is the negative reinforcer.

Retrolisthesis A backward slip of one vertebrae on top of another.

Rhizotomy Basically, cutting a spinal nerve root which carries a sensation.

Scoliosis A curve to the side of the spine that can develop in both children and adults.

Sciatica Pain in the back of thigh, leg and foot associated with a prolapsed intervertebral disc.

Slipped disc See Prolapsed Disc.

Spinal cord Specialised tissue consisting of nerve cells lying within the spine.

Spondylosis Damage to the spine from wear and tear.

Spondylolisthesis A forward slip of one vertebrae on top of another.

Trigger points Localised areas of increased tenderness in muscle.

Vertebra One of the bones that makes up the back.

Vertebral slip As the vertebrae sit on top of each other, a forward or backward slip may occur because of wear and tear or a break in one the stabilising bony arches in the back.

Visceral pain Injury or disease affecting the organs of the chest or ‘stomach’. The pain is usually deep and dull, and can be difficult to localise.

Zygapophyseal joint See Facet Joint.