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By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Pain is one of the most common causes of disablement and reduced quality of life. While not all pain can be removed, they can be soothed and it is possible – even with daily pain – to create a life with positive experiences.

The word pain can signify different things that have nothing else in common than personal discomfort. A person with headache does not mean the same thing by being in pain as the one in painful sorrow or a cancer patient. In other words, pain is something unique to each individual and is not measurable, you have to believe it. It is the same with art, love and joy – they too cannot be measured, you must experience them.

Pain can be a sign that the body is damaged by an illness or accident. However, pain can also arise without such damage can be proved. Traditionally, pain is divided into acute and chronic pain.

Acute pain is brief and is caused by some kind of injury to the body. Far most of us have experienced acute pain – for example a few days with pain in the arm or the shoulder because of an overload. That kind of pain is comprehensible and normally easy to treat. Here, pain is a sign that you have been pressing yourself too hard. Muscles, tendons and joints have been damaged. In that case, we know to relieve the arm for some days and that ordinary painkilling medication can soothe. The pain disappears when muscles, tendons and joints have healed up for some days and the arm then functions as before. Even though the pain may be strong, it is durable because we know is passes and everything returns to normal again.

On the contrary, chronic pain is prolonged and the cause is not always clear. Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than expected – longer than most who has a certain illnesses. From experience, we know that back pains do not last longer than 12 weeks – therefore, back pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks is called chronic pain. The damage done to the back has healed by for some reason the pain continues and become chronic. With most people with chronic pain in the back, the doctors cannot proof that anything is wrong and their treatment may soothe but cannot remove the pain entirely.

Further reading on chronic pain.


Is not contagious.

When can I go to work?
In the case of acute pain caused by an overload or an accident, you should wait until the pain has diminished. You cannot just ‘work off’ injuries to the body. Often, chronic pain causes unfitness for work for long periods of time. This may lead to the ill person being fired or perhaps quits on the effort of doing his/her job. In those cases, a social worker or a caseworker informs about the possibilities of flexible jobs, reduced working hours, rehabilitation or early retirement benefit.


Medications that soothes pain are divided into weak and strong remedies. The weak remedies consist of remedies for arthritis and paracetamol. Paracetamol and some of the arthritis remedies can be bought over the counter but most arthritis remedies require a prescription from the doctor. The weak remedies are used for pain like toothache, muscle pain, pain in joints, headache and menstrual pain.

If you previously have had an ulcer you should consult your doctor before taking any other medication than paracetamol.

Morphine is the typical remedy of the strong group. In addition to that, there are a number of remedies that more or less resembles morphine. The strong remedies are used for strong pain like pain in connection with gallstone and kidney stone, coronary thrombosis and pains associated with cancer.

What can you do?

Acute pain, where the cause is known – for example shoulder pain after a blow – you can treat yourself with medication bought over the counter for a few days. However, if the pain does not go away quickly, you should seek a doctor.

In the case of prolonged or returning pain, you should always contact a doctor. It is not a good idea to treat prolonged pain yourself with painkilling medication bought over the counter. It is a known fact that a daily use of painkilling medication can on its own lead to headache.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If the pain returns. If the cause of the pain is unknown.

Contact the doctor immediately

If you own treatment of the pain does not help. In the case of chest or stomach pains, you should contact with your doctor quickly.