Glossary P



The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage’.

Pain behavior

How people respond to pain. There is a wide range of pain behaviors that may be helpful and adaptive, or unhelpful and maladaptive.

Pain catastrophizing

An individual’s tendency to focus on and exaggerate the threat value of painful stimuli and negatively evaluate their ability to deal with pain.

Pain management program

A multidisciplinary method of helping those with chronic pain. With input from physiotherapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, nurses and pain clinicians, the purpose is to focus on the effects of pain on behavior, mood, function and activity, rather than only reducing the intensity of pain.


A skin sensation, such as burning, prickling, itching or tingling, with no apparent physical cause.

Patient-controlled analgesia

A method of administering a variety of analgesics where the patient has control over how much of the drug they receive, up to a predetermined limit, and how often they receive the drug. It enables the patient to feel more in control of their pain management and reduces nursing time. It is most commonly used in acute post-operative pain and is sometimes used in cancer pain.

Phantom pain

An unpleasant painful sensation referred to a surgically removed limb or portion thereof. Not all pain in amputees is phantom pain and a careful history is necessary to determine the exact cause. Other causes include stump pain, neuromata and ill-fitting prosthetic limbs.

Postherpetic neuralgia

One of the most common complications of zoster virus infection. Pain persists after the rash has healed, and people over 60 years of age are particularly at risk. The most common sites are in the mid-thoracic dermatomes and in the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve. Around 30% of patients still suffer from postherpetic neuralgia 12 months after the onset and pain may persist for many years.

Pre-emptive analgesia

By using analgesic techniques before surgery, it may be possible to reduce the intensity and duration of post-operative pain. This is based on the hypothesis that preventing nociceptive impulses reaching the spinal cord may reduce hyperexcitability and other changes occurring in the dorsal horn.


Pattern of medication-seeking behavior of patients receiving inadequate pain management that can be mistaken for addiction.

Psychosocial intervention

A therapeutic intervention that combines cognitive, cognitive-behavioral, behavioral and supportive interventions to relieve pain. These include patient education, relaxation techniques, psychotherapy, and structured or peer support.