Pain is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage." Caregivers involved in pain management suggest that pain and the intensity of discomfort are whatever the patient states and should be managed accordingly.

In addition to reducing discomfort and suffering, inadequate treatment of acute pain can increase morbidity, delay recovery, and increase medical costs of post-surgical patients, as well as lead to the development of chronic pain. In this chapter, we will outline the basic anatomy of the pain pathway, identifying key neurochemical mediators along the way. In addition, we will highlight important physiological processes which drive the transition from acute to chronic pain. In order to optimally administer analgesics and improve acute and chronic pain management, the caregiver must appreciate the anatomy and physiology of pain transmission and processing, in addition to the humanitarian responsibility.

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