In 2020, the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) updated their definition of pain — the first time since 1979.
Hence, the new definition of pain states:
>Pain: An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage
This means that:
1. It is unpleasant
2. It can produce a sensory response
3. It can also be an emotional experience
4. It is associated with *real* OR *perceived* potential tissue damage
They revised the definition to better convey "the nuances and the complexity of pain". And in doing so, they hoped it would lead to improved assessment and management of those with pain.
This new definition now communicates that, yes, pain usually serves an adaptive role. But it may also have adverse effects on function, social and psychological well-being. It may become 'maladaptive'.
Pain is always a personal experience. Influenced to varying degrees by biological, psychological, and social factors. Hence why many therapists use a biopsychosocial approach when working with patients.
And a person's report of an experience of pain should always be respected. Regardless of what the underlying drivers of pain are.
Pain is pain. It's personal. It's complex. And the new definition helps to highlight precisely these points.
- IASP (2020) ’IASP Announces Revised Definition of Pain’, International Association for the Study of Pain. Available at: https://www.iasp-pain.org/publications/iasp-news/iasp-announces-revised-definition-of-pain