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Reconsidering the International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain


Cohen, M and Quintner, J and Van Rysewyk, S, Reconsidering the International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain, Pain Reports, 3, (2) Article e634. ISSN 2471-2531 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of The International Association for the Study of Pain. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives International (CC BY-ND 4.0) License, ( which allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the author.

DOI: doi:10.1097/PR9.0000000000000634


Introduction: The definition of pain promulgated by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) is widely accepted as a pragmatic characterisation of that human experience. Although the Notes that accompany it characterise pain as "always subjective," the IASP definition itself fails to sufficiently integrate phenomenological aspects of pain.

Methods: This essay reviews the historical development of the IASP definition, and the commentaries and suggested modifications to it over almost 40 years. Common factors of pain experience identified in phenomenological studies are described, together with theoretical insights from philosophy and biology.

Results: A fuller understanding of the pain experience and of the clinical care of those experiencing pain is achievable through greater attention to the phenomenology of pain, the social "intersubjective space" in which pain occurs, and the limitations of language.

Conclusion: Based on these results, a revised definition of pain is offered: Pain is a mutually recognizable somatic experience that reflects a personís apprehension of threat to their bodily or existential integrity.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:pain, meaning, pain management, pain medicine, definition of pain
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Clinical sciences
Research Field:Pain
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical health
Objective Field:Human pain management
UTAS Author:Van Rysewyk, S (Mr Simon Van Rysewyk)
ID Code:147256
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:65
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2021-10-20
Last Modified:2021-11-08
Downloads:7 View Download Statistics

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