XI Glossary

Open Resources for Nursing (Open RN)

Acute pain: Pain that is limited in duration and is associated with a specific cause.

Addiction: A chronic disease of the brain’s reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by several symptoms, such as the inability to consistently abstain from a substance, impaired behavioral control, cravings, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.

Adjuvant: Medication that is not classified as an analgesic but has been found in clinical practice to have either an independent analgesic effect or additive analgesic properties when administered with opioids.

Analgesics: Medications used to relieve pain.

Chronic pain: Pain that is ongoing and persistent for longer than six months.

Misuse: Taking prescription pain medications in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high).

Neuropathic pain: Pain caused by a lesion or disease of the somatosensory nervous system that is typically described by patients as “burning” or “like pins and needles.”

Nociceptor: A sensory receptor for painful stimuli.

Pain: An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.

Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA): A method of pain management that allows hospitalized patients with severe pain to safely self-administer opioid medications using a programmed pump according to their level of discomfort.

Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms that occur when chronic pain medication is suddenly reduced or stopped because of physiological adaptations that occur from chronic exposure to the medication.

Referred pain: Pain perceived at a location other than the site of the painful stimulus. For example, pain from retained gas in the colon can cause pain to be perceived in the shoulder.

Substance abuse disorder: Significant impairment or distress from a pattern of substance use (i.e., alcohol, drugs or misuse of prescription medications).

Tolerance: A reduced response to pain medication when the same dose of a drug has been given repeatedly, requiring a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response.


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