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What Is Chronic Pain?

What Is Chronic Pain?

Acute pain is a sensation caused by the nervous system to alert individuals of injury or illness. It is an entirely rational response that may occur as the result of numerous complications. When the problem is treated, the pain usually lessens or disappears altogether. Chronic pain, however, is different. It does not go away. While a past injury or disorder may cause it, it often occurs without any known cause. It can be a sign of a more significant problem, and when left untreated, chronic pain can become debilitating


In many cases, chronic pain presents in the form of headaches, arthritis pain, lower back pain, or neurogenic pain caused by damage to the nerves or central nervous system. In some cases, it may present as psychogenic pain that is not caused by previous injury, disease, or any detectable damage to the nerves or central nervous system. Chronic pain may also be caused by several conditions such as endometriosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or vulvodynia. While chronic pain is a common symptom of these disorders, it is not known whether or not they share a common cause.


Diagnosing the cause of chronic pain is a crucial element in determining an effective treatment plan. In many cases, doctors can identify a potential caused based on the history of the symptoms and a physical examination. In some cases, however, additional diagnostic testing may be necessary. Standard tests for chronic pain include X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs. Laboratory tests may also be needed to detect specific causes of chronic pain.


Chronic pain can often be treated whether or not an exact cause can be determined. Numerous prescription pain medicines make feelings of chronic pain management. Some doctors may also recommend additional treatments such as brain stimulation, electrical stimulation, or acupuncture. Psychotherapy and muscle relaxation methods can be useful for some patients. When an underlying cause is detectable, doctors may be able to treat or cure it and drastically reduce or eliminate pain.

Chronic pain in itself is usually manageable with treatment. Without, however, it can significantly impact one's quality of life. Underlying conditions that cause pain may be minor or life-threatening. Treating the pain often requires treating or managing an underlying condition, so the prognosis for chronic pain is best when patients seek medical attention and begin treatment as soon as possible.