What is Chronic Pain?

Posted Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Did you know? Chronic pain is one of the most costly health problems in the US.

Chronic pain can last months or years, interfering with daily life and sometimes leading to depression and anxiety.

01 | Introduction

Everyone at some point in their life will experience pain. However, some people experience chronic pain — pain lasting weeks to years that can make the most mundane tasks challenging. This pain can be anywhere throughout the body, feel sharp or dull and may come and go with no specific cause.
Some of the most common forms of chronic pain are:

  • Headaches
  • Post-trauma or surgical pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Pain from cancer
  • Pain caused by nerve damage

02 | Chronic vs. Acute

There are two different types of pain: chronic and acute. Since everyone experiences pain, how can you tell if it is chronic pain?  

Chronic pain is long lasting pain past the point of recovery. Conversely, acute pain is not long lasting and dissipates after your body heals. 

03 | Causes

Chronic pain can be caused by multiple things:

  • Ongoing conditions
  • Lingering from a condition the patient recovered from
  • Seemingly no cause

If the chronic pain doesn’t have a link to an injury or illness — i.e. psychogenic pain or psychosomatic pain — this could be from psychological triggers (stress, anxiety and depression).

04 | Diagnosis

Since pain is subjective, chronic pain is typically diagnosed based on how the patient describes it: how intense, where it is, how often it occurs, etc. Additional tests can be done do determine the pain’s cause.

05 | Treatments

If the cause of the pain is found, treatments are prescribed for the cause. If the source can’t be found, the treatments turns to treating and managing the pain. Treatments can include medications, therapy, and other alternative treatments (e.g. acupuncture, mindfulness training and exercise).

Learn More

For more information on chronic pain and supportive resources, please visit www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain

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