Can you remember the last time you had a cold? How about the last time you cut yourself or fell down? You probably felt some pain, but after a few hours or days, the pain went away. Pain is the body’s signal to the mind that something is wrong with the body. As a certified nursing assistant, you will work with patients or clients who have been injured, have long-term diseases, or have had surgery, and they may feel acute pain or chronic pain.
Acute pain is sharp, sudden pain that lasts no longer than six months and can be very serious. Examples of acute pain include a broken bone, a burst appendix, a heart attack, or post-surgery pain. In contrast, chronic pain can be mild to severe and usually lasts longer than six months; in fact, chronic pain can last on and off for years. Examples of health conditions in which patients feel chronic pain are cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Everyone’s pain threshold is slightly different. For example, a person who has a low pain threshold may feel that the pain of an injection is unbearable. On the other hand, some patients have a high pain tolerance, or a point at which they can tolerate extreme pain and choose to live with it. They may have lived with pain for months or years, putting off surgery or taking medication to help the pain. A patient’s background might affect his pain tolerance as well: if his family doesn’t encourage him to tell when he feels pain, he may try to hide it. Still other patients might seem to exaggerate their pain.
Getting to know all of your patients and clients individually will help you to learn more about the limits of their pain thresholds and how to help them manage their pain.