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Common pain-related definitions

Acute pain

Pain that starts suddenly and has a specific cause, like an injury or illness, and lasts a short time. It alerts the patient to seek help

Biopsychosocial model 

Approach that addresses the biological, psychological, and social factors of health and illness

Chronic pain

Pain that typically lasts more than 3 months or past the time of normal healing (International Association for the Study of Pain, 1986)

Interdisciplinary treatment

Collaborative treatment provided by a diverse care team (International Association for the Study of Pain, 2017)

Occupations/ daily life activities

Everyday activities that people do to bring meaning and purpose to life (World Federation of Occupational Therapists, 2012)


A subjective, unpleasant physical and emotional experience associated with actual or potential damage (International Association for the Study of Pain, 1994)

Physical function

Ability to function without limitations in the course of daily life (CDC, 1993)

Physical function experts

Providers dedicated to the improvement of their patients’ physical health and function. They could include physical therapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, or others

Physical function services

Treatments that improve healthy moving and functioning and are often provided by physical function experts.  For example, services could include evaluation, exercise therapy, or neuromuscular re-education 

Transdisciplinary treatment

Integrated interdisciplinary treatment that promotes sharing and collaborating within a team

Trauma informed

Using an understanding of trauma to create policies and practices that respond to trauma and avoid re-traumatization (SAMHSA)

Holding a Book

Chronic pain glossary

We’re trying to build a common language around pain.

Learn more about your pain diagnosis by clicking on the button below. 

Click on the link below to learn more about what your tests or imaging (X-Ray or MRI) mean.

Keep reading for some common pain-related definitions.

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