Resource Directory



Term Explanation


Ablative Surgery Surgery within the central or peripheral nervous system to help alleviate pain

Acetaminophen Pain reliever and fever reducer such as Tylenol. Elevates the pain threshold.

Acupressure Technique that uses pressure on certain points along the body to help control pain

Acupuncture Ancient Chinese healing technique uses the insertion of strategically placed fine needles just beneath the skin’s surface that may help to prevent or treat diseases and illnesses

Acute Pain Pain that comes on suddenly. Pain can be intense and severe and last a relatively short time. Often a warning that something is wrong in the body.

Addiction Strong chronic physiological and psychological dependence on a substance

Adjuvant Analgesics Drugs not primarily intended for pain relief but may relieve pain in some circumstances (i.e. antidepressants, anticonvulsants)

Adverse events Unanticipated problem involving risk that may be harmful

Algogenic Causing pain

Allodynia Pain that occurs from circumstance not normally associated with pain such as something lightly touching your skin causing pain

Allopathic Traditional medicine

Amitriptyline An antidepressant medication that may be used to treat chronic pain

Analgesic Medication designed to prevent or relieve pain

Analgesic ceiling Dose of analgesic beyond which no additional analgesia is obtained

Anesthesiologist Physician who provides pain relief and maintains a stable condition during and following an operation or diagnostic procedure. Anesthesiologist may diagnose and treat acute and chronic pain conditions.

Anesthetic Medication that causes loss of sensation-numbness

Antidepressant A medication used to treat depression and also prescribed as an adjuvant analgesic used to manage pain symptoms

Antiemetic Medication that prevents or alleviates nausea and vomiting

Antiepileptic drug Drug used in treatment of epilepsy and treatment of chronic pain

Anxiolytics Medications prescribed to help manage anxiety and also helps ease pain by helping muscles relax

Arachnoiditis Painful inflammation and thickening of the arachnoid membrane around nerve roots

Arthritis Inflammation of a joint that may result in stiffness, swelling, redness and pain

Assessment An evaluation or appraisal of a condition, as in pain assessment

Aura Visual disturbance such as flashes of light, zigzagging patterns or blind spots that can signal the onset of pain


A misdirected immune response that occurs when the immune system is skewed and attacks the body itself

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Behavioral therapy Psychotherapy that is concerned with the treatment of observable behaviors rather than underlying psychological processes

Benzodiazepines Drugs that work as tranquilizers

Beta-blockers Drugs that can inhibit the sympathetic nervous system involving physical responses and reduce certain symptoms

Biofeedback A technique in which an individual learns to consciously control involuntary physical responses, including heart rate, brain waves, and muscle contractions. Information about these normally unconscious physiologic processes is then relayed back to the patient as a visual, auditory, or demonstrative signal.

Biologically Based Therapy Therapy that includes natural and biologically based practices, interventions and products such as herbal supplements and special dietary guidelines

Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) A purified botulinum toxin that is used by injection for various purposes including pain management to treat migraines

Breakthrough Pain Pain that appears or breaks through in spite of the fact an individual is taking pain medication

Breathing To inhale or exhale air through the lungs. Breathing can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously. Conscious attention to breathing is common in many forms of relaxation and meditation, specifically in forms of yoga and Chinese Qi gong.


Calcium channel blocker Drug that prevents or slows the influx of calcium ions into smooth muscle cells and can be used to treat pain

Capsaicin Found in certain plants, including cayenne and red pepper and may be used topically to relieve pain

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Nerve damage as a result of compression of the median nerve in the wrist

Cartilage Tissue that cushions bones at joints and other locations

Causalgia A persistent burning sensation of the skin, usually caused by damage to peripheral nerves

Central Nervous System (CNS) Body system comprised of the brain and spinal cord

Central pain Pain associated within the central nervous system

Central sensitization An increase in the excitability of neurons within the central nervous system, resulting in abnormal responses

Chiropractic Treatment based on the effect of spinal anatomy on the functioning of the body. Technique works to remove interruptions to the flow of nerve transmission.

Chronic Pain Pain that is long lasting for at least three to six months and may increase with time. Can be caused by a health problem or injury and can exist without a clear cause. It is constant and present almost all of the time.

Cluster headache Episodic and chronic headache pattern, characterized by 1-3 short attacks of pain daily

Comorbid Disease or process that occurs simultaneously with another disease or process.

Complementary and Alternative Therapy (CAM) An alternative pain management strategy that does not include standard medical approaches, i.e. yoga, herbs, acupuncture

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) Also known as RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) and Causalgia is persistent burning pain accompanied by other symptoms

Complication An additional problem that arises following an illness, treatment or procedure

Computed Axial Tomography (CAT Scan) Diagnostic technique using x-ray to provide a computerized cross section image of soft tissue and bone

Computed tomography Scan (CT) Diagnostic technique using x-ray to provide a computerized cross section image of soft tissue and bone

Continuous dysesthesia Continuous neuropathic pain that manifests as burning, electrical or other abnormal sensation

Contraindication Treatment that is improper or undesirable

Corticosteroids Steroids used as an anti-inflammatory agent for pain.

COX-2 inhibitor (Coxibs) Drugs that may relieve pain and inflammation that block COX-2 enzymes and active only at site of inflammation
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Deep tissues Tissues including bone, muscle, tendons, joint capsules and fasciae

Dependence Physical or psychological substance dependence

Depression Treatable illness that affects the mind, body, mood thoughts and perceptions

Doctor of Medicine An academic degree for medical doctors and is the most common degree held by physicians and surgeons

Duloxetine Serotonin inhibitor and norepinephrine reuptake used for pain management

Dysesthesia Unpleasant spontaneous or evoked abnormal sensation in people with neuropathic pain; distinct from pain in the classical sense

Dysphoria Anxiety, depression or unease


Efficacy The ability of an intervention to produce the desired beneficial effect

Electroneuromyography (EMG) Testing and recording neuromuscular activity by electrical stimulation of the nerves. Nerve stimulations test may be used alone or in combination with imaging tests.

Energy Medicine Based on the concept that human beings conduct a subtle form of energy and that illness results from disturbances of these subtle energies. Work is then done to restore and rebalance the flow of the body's energy. Examples include Reiki, Qi gong and healing touch.

Enzyme Protein that increases chemical reaction in a living organism

Epidural anesthesia Anesthesia produced by injection of a local anesthetic into the peridural space of the spinal cord


Facet Joints Joints located between two adjacent vertebrae at every spinal level

Family and General Practitioner Family doctors treat a range of health problems including pain. Often refers patients to a specialist.

Fibromyalgia Characterized by chronic pain, stiffness, and tenderness of muscles, tendons, and joints all over the body without detectable inflammation. Fatigue and sleep disorders are common.

Field block injection Used to relax tender muscles, reduce muscle pain and inflammation. Targeted muscle is injected with local anesthetic and corticosteroid. Also known as trigger point injection.
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Gastrointestinal Body system including stomach and large and small intestines

Generic Chemical name of a drug as opposed to its brand name

Gout Characterized by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood and produces lumps in and around joints. Also decreases kidney function.


Headache Head pain above the eyes or the ears, behind the head, or in the back of the upper neck. Primary headaches are migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Secondary headaches are associated with another disease.

Healing Touch A non-invasive technique that utilizes the hands to clear, energize, and balance energy fields. During this therapy, the practitioner and client come together energetically to facilitate the client’s health and healing

Herniated Disc Rupture of tissue that separates vertebrae of the spinal column

Herpes zoster (Shingles) An acute viral inflammation of nerves caused by reactivation of the herpes virus that causes chicken pox. Blisters over nerve, with pain and itching.

Hyperalgesia Excessive sensitivity to pain or enhanced intensity of pain sensation

Hyperpathia Excessive response to pain trigger that continues after the trigger is gone

Hypnosis A state of consciousness in which a person's attention is focused towards images, thoughts, perceptions, feelings, motivations, sensations, behaviors, or a combination of these. A hypnotist can train some migraine patients to self-hypnotize in order to reduce stress and related symptoms.

Hypoalgesia Diminished pain in response to normally painful stimulus


Iatrogenic Unexpected result of a medical treatment caused by the treatment itself

Imagery Using mental images from memory or imagination to relieve pain

Immediate-Release Medication Medication that takes effect over a short period of time

Immune System System that protects body from foreign substances and infections

Inflammation Non specific immune response within tissues as result of injury or abnormal stimulation. Usually accompanied by redness, heat, swelling

Internist A medical doctor who focuses on the prevention and treatment of adult diseases

Intervention Any measure whose purpose is to improve health or to alter the course of a disease

Interventional pain management Blocking of the body's production and/or transmission of pain signals to the brain by use of a neurological procedure, nerve block spinal cord stimulation, implantation of a drug delivery system or injection of an anesthetic.

Intractable pain Pain that does not respond to treatment

Intrathecal anesthesia Anesthesia placed in the space under the arachnoid membrane which covers the brain and spinal cord
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Joint Fibrous connective tissue or cartilage where two bones are attached


Laser Acupuncture Variation of acupuncture where low-energy laser beams replace traditional acupuncture needles used to treat pain.

Lidocaine An anesthetic that produces pain relief by blocking the signals at the nerve endings in the skin. Lidocaine topical systems are used to relieve pain and discomfort.

Long-Acting/Sustained-Release Medication Medication that is released over a long period of time and is taken on a regular basis.

Lumbar spondylosis (degenerative disc disease) Degeneration of the lumbar spine associated with back pain and/or leg symptoms.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Diagnostic technology using magnetic fields to produce a computerized image (no x-ray involved). A contrast material may be infused intravenously. People with any metal in their body should not have an MRI. Can be used to determine pain source.

Manipulative and Body Based Therapy These methods are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body, including chiropractic techniques, massage, and reflexology.

Meditation Mental calmness and physical relaxation by suspending the stream of thoughts that normally occupy the mind. Used to reduce stress, alter hormone levels, and elevate one’s mood.

Megavitamins Large quantities of vitamins taken on a regular basis.

Migraine Periodic attacks of vascular headache, commonly associated with irritability, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, and often photophobic.

Mind Body Medicine Medicine that focuses on the interactions among the brain, mind body, and behavior, while considering ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health. Mind body medicine techniques include relaxation, hypnosis, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, group support spirituality, and prayer.

Muscle Tissue of the body which primarily functions as a source of power.

Music Therapy The use of music interventions to accomplish any range of goals, including improvement of motor skills, social/interpersonal development, cognitive development, self-awareness and spiritual enhancement.

Myelogram An x-ray using contrast dye to identify nerve compression caused by a herniated disc or fracture of the spine.

Myofascial pain Muscle pain and soreness.


Narcotic Medication that produces pain relief by depressing the central nervous system.

Nerve A bundle of fibers that uses chemical and electrical signals to transmit sensory and motor information from one body part to another.

Nerve block A procedure in which an anesthetic agent is injected directly near a nerve to numb the area and help alleviate pain

Neuralgia Pain along the course of a nerve

Neurologist Medical doctor who diagnoses and treats problems with the nervous system, including chronic pain. A neurologist can be either an M.D. or specialty trained physician.

Neuropathic pain Pain caused damage to or dysfunction in the peripheral and/or central nervous systems. Symptoms may include burning, tingling or hypersensitivity to cold or touch.

Neuropathy Any and all disease or malfunction of the nerves

Neuropsychologist Psychologist who has specialized training and experience in understanding brain-behavior relationships. A neuropsychologist has an advanced degree in psychology, and usually works with psychiatrists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, physiatrists and other medical specialists.

Neurosurgeon Surgeon who specializes in diseases and conditions of the central nervous system, and the nerves that branch out from the spine. Provide surgical and non-surgical interventions and assist with pain management.

Nociceptive pain Nociceptive pain is a result of injury to body tissues. Typically aching, sharp or throbbing pain (i.e. post surgical pain, cancer pain)

Non-Opiod Medication that does not contain an opiod and may be available over-the-counter. Examples include Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, and Motrin.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Medication used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation (i.e. aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen) May be OTC or prescription.
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Opioid Strong pain relieving medication that is not derived from opium. Drugs such as codeine and morphine that require a prescription.

Orthopedist Medical doctor specializing in problems of the musculoskeletal system, including the spine

Osteoarthritis A non-inflammatory degenerative joint disease characterized by degeneration of cartilage and increase in bone size. It is accompanied by pain, usually after prolonged activity and stiffness, particularly in the morning or with inactivity.

Osteopath A Doctor of Osteoepathy diagnoses and treats illness through hands on manual medicine and the body's musculoskeletal system


Pain Unpleasant sensations that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony that may have physical and emotional consequences

Pain Specialist Pain medicine physicians are experts at diagnosing the cause of pain and then treating the pain. Work closely with primary care doctor.

Pain, acute See acute pain

Pain, chronic See chronic pain

Palliative Care Medical care provided by an interdisciplinary team that promotes quality of life and relieves suffering. The goal is to promote the best possible quality of life for patients facing serious, life-threatening illness whether the goal is cure or care.

Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) A method by which the patient controls the amount of analgesia they receive. In the classic PCA system, the patients receive a preset dose and add more medication as needed and prescribed.

Peripheral Situated away from the center, as opposed to being centrally located

Peripheral Nervous System Includes nerves throughout the body that relay message such as pain to the CNS (Central Nervous System)

Peripheral neuropathy Peripheral nerve damage marked by muscle weakness and atrophy, pain, and numbness

Peripheral sensitization Reduction in threshold and an increase in responsiveness of the peripheral ends of nociceptors

Phantom Pain Pain that is experienced in a body part that is no longer present

Pharmacotherapy Medication based therapy

Photophobia Abnormal or painful visual intolerance of light

Physiatrist A physician whose primary goal is to achieve maximal restoration of physical, psychological, social and vocational function through comprehensive rehabilitation. The physiatrist has expertise in the appropriate use of therapeutic exercise, prosthetics, orthotics and mechanical and electrical devices.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Medical specialty concerned with diagnosing, evaluating and treating patients with physical disabilities

Physical therapy Branch of rehabilitative health that uses specially designed exercises and equipment to help patients regain or improve their physical abilities

Polypharmacy The administration of many drugs together or the administration of excessive medication

Postoperative Relating to, occurring in, or being the period following a surgical operation

Prophylaxis Intervention aimed at prevention of disease

Prostaglandins Hormone like substance that sensitizes pain receptors to mechanical and chemical stimulation and cause blood vessels to dilate

Pseudo addiction Behaviors that appear to indicate addiction but actually reflect undertreated pain

Psychiatrist Medical doctor specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental, addictive and emotional disorders. Has understanding of the biologic, psychological and social components of illness, and able to treat the whole person.

Psychogenic Pain or Psycho physiologic Pain Pain mainly related to psychological factors without evidence of disorder or result of physical and psychological factors

Psychological Therapy Therapy used instead of or in addition to medication to manage pain.May include biofeedback, relaxation, stress management, and behavioral therapy

Psychologist A professional who is licensed to provide therapeutic services, research and testing. There are clinical psychologists who provide counseling and psychotherapy.
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Qi gong A component of traditional Chinese medicine that combines movement, meditation, and regulation of breathing to enhance the flow of qi (an term given to what is believed to be vital energy) in the body, improve blood circulation, and enhance immune function.


Radiculopathy Disease caused by compression, inflammation, and/or injury to a spinal nerve root in the low back. Also known as radicular pain or sciatica.

Rebound headache Headache experienced by people who have built up a specific medication tolerance and occurs immediately after medication wears off

Referred pain Pain felt in one area of the body that does not accurately represent where the problem is, because the pain is referred there from another area, i.e. pain in jaw, arm, etc. from heart attack

Reflexology Form of massage where a practitioner applies pressure to certain parts of the feet and hands to help promote relaxation and healing at specified points in the body

Rehabilitation Treatment plan used to help regain function or relieve pain caused by illness or injury

Reiki Practice of transmitting healing energy through the hands, based on ancient techniques. Uses specific hand positions on or above parts of the body that correspond to the major organs and energy centers, such as the heart or adrenal glands. Can be used to treat acute and chronic pain.

Relaxation State of deep rest in which the metabolism slows, less oxygen is needed, heart and respiration rates drop, blood pressure drops, and brain waves slow

Rheumatoid arthritis Chronic autoimmune disease characterized by pain, stiffness, inflammation, swelling and often joint destruction

Rheumatologist Physician who specializes in medicine concerned with joints, muscles and bones and their roles in health and disease


Sciatic Nerve The largest nerve that runs from the back of the hip down the thigh to the calf in each leg. Provides motor and sensory control for much of the lower limbs.

Sciatica Pain resulting from irritation of the sciatic nerve. Pain is typically felt from the low back to behind the thigh and radiating below the knee.

Serotonin antagonists Drugs that bind to but do not activate serotonin receptors, thereby blocking the actions of serotonin or serotonin agonists.

Shingles (Herpes zoster) An acute viral inflammation caused by reactivation of the herpes virus causing chicken pox

Sinus Headache A headache caused by pressure within the sinus cavities of the head, usually in connection with infection of the sinuses

Social Worker Professional who may assist people to obtain tangible services, help communities or groups provide or improve social and health services, provide counseling and psychotherapy with individuals, families, and groups

Somatic Relating to the body as opposed to the mind

Somatic Pain Pain that tends to arise from voluntary muscles in the legs or arms and feels localized to one spot as well as achy and throbbing

Spasm Brief, automatic jerking movement that may be caused by stress, medication, excessive exercise, etc.

Spinal cord Major column of nerve tissue that is connected to the brain and lies within the vertebral canal and from which the spinal nerves emerge. Their nerve fibers transmit impulses to and from the brain.

Spinal Cord Stimulation Internal electrode near spinal cord to control pain

Spinal fusion Surgical fusion of two or more vertebrae for remedial immobilization of the spine

Spine Column of bone, the vertebral column, that surrounds and protects the spinal cord

Syndrome Set of signs and symptoms that tend to occur together and which reflect the presence of a disease or an increased chance of developing a disease
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Tension headache Mild or moderate pain of variable duration affecting both sides of the head and often accompanied by contraction of neck and scalp muscles

Titration Determination of a given component in solution by addition of a liquid reagent of known strength until a given endpoint is reached

Tolerance When the body becomes accustomed to a pain relieving medication so much so that the dosage needs to be adjusted or a new medication needs to be prescribed

Topical analgesics Analgesics designed for or involving application to or action on the surface of a part of the body

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) Device providing gentle electric current applied through electrodes put on the surface of the skin. Electrodes may also be implanted along affected nerves or in space surrounding the spinal cord.

Transdermal Medication that is put on the skin and is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) Medications used to treat depression as well as some forms of anxiety, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain

Trigeminal nerve The largest cranial nerves

Trigger Set off disease in those who are genetically predisposed to developing a disease, or that causes a certain symptom to occur

Triptans Mediation often used to treat migraine symptoms as it constricts blood vessels in the brain to relieve swelling


Ultrasound High frequency sound waves used to obtain images inside the body. May relieve muscle strain and osteoarthritis pain.


Visceral Pain Pain that tends to arise from internal organs and feels like squeezing, cramping, or pressure
Visualization Creating a mental image of a desired outcome, and repeatedly playing that image in the mind for purpose of pain relief


Whole Medical Systems Therapy that uses a combination of complementary and alternative medicine techniques to treat a condition

Wind-up pain (sensitization) Pain caused as a result of the release of chemicals from nerve cells in the spinal cord that intensify pain and the signal to the brain

Withdrawal symptoms Abnormal physical or psychological symptoms that occur after sudden drug withdrawal. Can include sweating, tremor, nausea, anxiety, insomnia and pain.


X-ray A type of high energy photon that provides a picture of bone to rule out bone damage and/or fracture


Yoga A philosophy and discipline applied to the development of mind, body and spirit. Through practices of holding a variety of body positions and the centering of the mind and breath in a meditative way, the practioner increases body awareness, posture, flexibility of body, and mind and calmness of spirit.
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