What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is pain which lasts longer than expected. The expectation is the ordinary duration of time that an injury to the body needs to heal (usually three to six months). It is also called "persistent pain". Over 100 million Americans suffer with chronic pain and it accounts for 20% of outpatient visits and 12% of all prescriptions.
Pain is one of the most common and debilitating patient complaints affecting individual patients, their friends and families, the work force, and society in general.
Most patients with chronic pain rate their symptoms as moderate to severe, and it is estimated that 19% of adults in the United States report constant or frequent pain persisting for at least three months.
What are chronic pain symptoms?
- Mild to severe pain that does not go away
- Pain that may be described as shooting, burning, aching, or electrical
- Feeling of discomfort, soreness, tightness, or stiffness
Other health problems associated with pain
- Withdrawal from activity and increased need to rest
- Weakened immune system
- Changes in mood including hopelessness, fear, depression, irritability, anxiety, and stress
What are the most common sources of pain?
- Joint pain
- Pain from injury
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Pain affecting specific parts of the body (shoulders, pelvis, and neck)
- Generalized muscle pain
- Nerve pain
What are the causes of chronic pain?
Acute pain is a vital, protective mechanism that allows us to live in our environment, as certain things that are associated with danger should be avoided to prevent tissue damage. This adaptive pain protects us from injury and promotes healing when an injury has occurred. Maladaptive chronic pain is pain that represents abnormal functioning of the nervous system.
In chronic pain, the brain continues to interpret danger even though it is no longer protective or supportive to healing. Because of the mind-body links associated with chronic pain, effective treatment requires addressing the brain (psychological) as well as physical aspects of the condition.
In scientific terms, pain is an OUTPUT from the brain, or central nervous system (CNS), that is created after processing of input from specialized nociceptors. The input from these nociceptors is processed in the somatosensory cerebral cortex in the brain, where it is interpreted and pain is output as a protective mechanism.
What are the results of chronic pain?
- Increased death rate (10 year mortality)
- Increased heart disease and respiratory disease
- Increased rates of depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances
- Weight gain