Resources & Education

July 10th, 2017

What is Chronic Pain?

It’s a dull ache that can never be soothed. It’s a sharp pain that makes it impossible to think or focus. It’s a relentless reality that becomes just as emotionally painful as it is physically painful, when you realize you’re living with constant, chronic pain. If you suspect that the pain you feel is something more than temporary, read on to learn the signs and causes of chronic pain, as well as ways to safely manage symptoms without the long-term use of painkillers.

What is Chronic Pain?

A physician may diagnose chronic pain if you are experiencing painful symptoms that have lasted more than 12 weeks.

What are the Symptoms of Chronic Pain?

The symptoms of chronic pain may vary significantly both in their form and in their severity. For some, the pain is there when they wake up in the morning and when they go to bed at night. For others, the pain can come and go unexpectedly, but never fully leaves for long. Symptoms of chronic pain may include:

  • Dull aching
  • Throbbing
  • Burning or stinging
  • Shooting pain
  • Squeezing
  • Stiffness

In addition, chronic pain can be accompanied by such symptoms as:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in mood

What Causes Chronic Pain?

What becomes chronic pain may start with a specific incident or injury to a singular part of the body, or, it may be caused by a more complex health condition. The most frequent causes of chronic pain include:

  • An injury or surgery
  • An infection
  • A strain or sprain
  • Back issues
  • Nerve damage
  • Migraines or other headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia

Diagnosing Chronic Pain

There is no definitive test to determine if a patient is experiencing chronic pain. Since severity of pain is subjective, to diagnose the condition a physician will rely upon your description of the sensation, its location, the pattern or timing, and your estimation of the severity.

The Emotional Toll of Chronic Pain

Living in constant pain can become emotionally straining, leading to emotional health complications. Research has shown a connection between physical and emotional health. Pain that interferes with your daily life, and impacts your ability to participate in daily responsibilities can create feelings of depression, anger, frustration, and sadness.

Treatments for Chronic Pain

If you suspect that you may be experiencing chronic pain, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you identify the underlying cause, and can work with you to identify a treatment plan that will help you manage your symptoms, as well as their underlying cause.

While painkillers may seem like an immediate solution to chronic pain, there are ways to treat pain without a long-term course of painkillers. Your doctor may recommend one of the following treatment plans:

  • Relaxation therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Surgery to treat the underlying cause

Remember, just because you’re experiencing chronic pain, it doesn’t mean you have to let the pain disrupt your life. With the help of a health care professional, you can learn to treat the underlying causes of your pain, and manage your symptoms to ensure you are still living your life to the fullest.


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