Patients who come to the emergency department complaining of non-specific pain can be tricky to triage. This type of pain is different from that caused by an identifiable source, such as a patient complaining of chest pain, back pain, stomach pain or a headache. Non-specific pain could be caused by any number of reasons related to the body's 10 main organ systems, from the skeletal system, the nervous system or the muscular system. It could also be psychosomatic in some instances. Identifying its cause can be a complex puzzle.
This is one instance where getting an accurate medical history, either from the patient, through patient medical files or from the patient's primary care physician, can help determine if the pain has been a chronic problem or is acute. A solid understanding of the patient's medical history will also help emergency room staff understand if the patient has another illness that may contribute to this pain or if the pain has been previously treated and how. It also helps doctors and nurses flag patients who may have previously visited the ER in an effort to solicit pain-relieving medications for an addiction rather than for pain treatment.