Glossary A


Ablative surgery

An operative procedure in which tissue is ablated (destroyed) by diathermy, cryotherapy, radiofrequency or other means; in the context of pain medicine, the procedure is performed on peripheral nerves, the spinal cord, the brain or brain stem to relieve pain by permanent disruption of nerve pathways.


A procedure used in or adapted from Chinese medicine practice in which fine needles are inserted into specific body areas for therapeutic purposes or to relieve pain or produce regional anesthesia.

Acute pain service

A multidisciplinary team including a physician trained in pain management (usually an anesthetist), a nurse and other healthcare professionals, such as a physiotherapist and psychologist. The aim is to reduce the severity and frequency of post-operative or post-traumatic pain and to educate patients and clinical staff about the options available to treat and relieve pain.

A-delta fibers

Myelinated nociceptor fibers that respond to intense heat, cold, mechanical and chemical stimuli. Activation of A-delta fibers is associated with a sharp, intense, stabbing sensation of pain and they are thought to be responsible for conducting the first pain sensation.

Adjuvant analgesics

Drugs whose primary use is not for managing pain, but in certain conditions they have analgesic properties and often will enhance the effect of conventional analgesics. Examples include antidepressant and anticonvulsant drugs.


Pain produced by a stimulus that is normally not painful. Commonly seen in neuropathic pain states, it is a particular feature of postherpetic neuralgia.

Anesthesia dolorosa

Pain in a numb area or where sensation is not normally perceived. Anesthesia dolorosa is one of the complications of treatment for trigeminal neuralgia.


Medications that help manage anxiety and can also be used to manage pain by encouraging muscles to relax, thereby easing the pain.


Drugs primarily used for the treatment of epilepsy, which are also used to reduce the severity of pain in neuropathic pain states.


Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) have been used for many years in the treatment of low back pain. These drugs are particularly useful at doses lower than those used to treat depression.