Pain is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. Because it is a complex, subjective phenomenon, defining pain has been a challenge. The International Association for the Study of Pain's widely used definition states: "Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage." In medical diagnosis, pain is regarded as a symptom of an underlying condition.
Pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations, to protect a damaged body part while it heals, and to avoid similar experiences in the future. Most pain resolves once the noxious stimulus is removed and the body has healed, but it may persist despite removal of the stimulus and apparent healing of the body. Sometimes pain arises in the absence of any detectable stimulus, damage or disease.
Pain is the most common reason for physician consultation in most developed countries. It is a major symptom in many medical conditions, and can interfere with a person's quality of life and general functioning. Simple pain medications are useful in 20% to 70% of cases. Psychological factors such as social support, hypnotic suggestion, excitement, or distraction can significantly affect pain's intensity or unpleasantness. In some arguments put forth in physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia debates, pain has been used as an argument to permit people who are terminally ill to end their lives.