Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensory sensation related to the sense of touch. It is usually related to tissue damage or inflammation of tissue. Pain is transmitted from such tissue through the nervous system to the brain, where it is processed and perceived. Pain can be felt anywhere in the body. In fact, patients have even been known to feel pain in body parts that no longer exist, such as amputated legs.
From a medical standpoint, the location and type of pain being felt by the patient is an important diagnostic tool. It usually allows the doctor to pinpoint the site of the disease merely from its location alone. The type of pain (from dull ache to stabbing pain) gives a clue to the doctor of the nature of the illness.
Pain is a normal sensation, and in its first instance allows people to avoid further injury. For example, if someone places their hand on a hot car hood, they will immediately withdraw it through reflex action alone. However, severe or chronic pain is often rooted in conditions that are not life threatening, but the pain merely prevents the patient from living a normal life. Examples are persons who are suffering from cancer or previous severe trauma. In such cases pain management becomes a challenge for the doctor.
The usual treatment for pain that cannot be removed by treating an underlying condition is the use of analgesics. These can range from something as simple as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, to narcotic drugs such as Vicodin, and finally to opium derivatives such as morphine. However, as the strength of the pain relieving medicine increases, so do the side effects, such as drowsiness, possible addiction, and liver damage.
House suffers from chronic pain as the result of a muscle in his right thigh being removed after it died due to an infarction. Although the rest of his leg can support his weight, the pain results in him being unable to walk without the assistance of a cane. He has become dependent on the narcotic painkiller Vicodin to deal with the pain. His attempts to wean himself from Vicodin have been unsuccessful as the pain worsens at the same time as he undergoes withdrawal symptoms, leaving him unable to function.
Inability to feel pain
When nerves are severed, patients are unable to feel any sensation, including pain, that originates below the site of the severed nerve. In addition, there are some conditions, such as CIPA, where the nerves that carry pain are absent, making sufferers insensitive to pain. Although the inability to feel pain might seem to be an advantage, in fact sufferers cannot feel the pain of even life threatening conditions, and even minor injuries have to be fully assessed by medical personnel.