What does chronic pain mean?
To understand chronic pain, it may help first to look at acute pain. Acute pain, while not pleasant, is a normal response by the body that is interpreted by the nervous system as an uncomfortable sensation meaning something is not right, and your situation needs to change to prevent permanent damage. The pain goes away as soon as the injury or threat of damage to the body has been contained.
Chronic pain does not behave in the same way. It is persistent, lasting beyond the typical amount of time it takes for healing to occur. In chronic pain, the signals that mean danger is present continue to fire in the nervous system for months or even years after the injury, if one has occurred, has resolved.
Chronic pain symptoms
Chronic pain affects not only your physical health but also your mental condition and your social life. Chronic pain may lead to the following symptoms and complications:
- Poor sleep
- Loss of interest in sex
- Suicidal thoughts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Feeling very tired or wiped out
Chronic pain causes
The causes of chronic pain can be both mental and physical. Causes of chronic pain can vary. Sometimes an initial injury provides a trigger for chronic pain. Examples might include a severe infection or back strain. In other cases, chronic pain sets in slowly. For instance, in the case of cancer, osteoarthritis, or recurring migraine headaches. Some people have chronic pain when there is no evidence of past trauma, infection, or other injuries to the body.
Conditions that cause chronic pain can affect people of any age. These conditions include:
- Low back pain
- Pain due to cancer
- Headache pain
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Pain due to arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Interstitial cystitis
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction