What is Chronic Pain?
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What is Chronic Pain?

Those who live with pain on a near daily basis often describe it as “debilitating,” “exhausting,” and “intolerable.” Describing it easy, but defining it is more difficult. The Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) offers a useful definition: “[Chronic pain] is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”

Broadly speaking, if you have pain that persists for more than three months and has not been relieved by medical or surgical care, you may have a chronic pain condition. Chronic pain is a condition characterized by generalized muscle or nerve pain, that continues well beyond reasonable expectations of recovery; it affects 100 million Americans — approximately two out of five adults.  

Types of Pain

  • Nociceptive - Caused by tissue damage or inflammation, it is usually described usually described as sharp, aching, or throbbing pain. It is often attributed to other conditions.  
  • Neuropathic - Caused by nervous system damage or malfunction. Sufferers commonly describe the pain as causing numbness or a burning sensation. Because nerves connect the spinal cord to the rest of the body and facilitate communication between internal organs, muscles, and skin, the pain can affect many parts of the body. It is often attributed to poor diet, infections, alcohol abuse, or autoimmunity dysfunction, which can interfere with pathways and induce a pain response.

Associated Conditions & Diseases

Chronic pain is also often associated with other conditions and diseases, including:

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis


  • Cancer

  • Spinal diseases

  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

  • Recurrent headache, including migraines

  • Painful neurological disorders resulting from damage to the nerves

Common Comorbid Issues

Chronic pain can also cause numerous other issues, including:

  • Immobility, followed by wasting of muscle and  joints

  • Health issues from immune system issues that can cause increased vulnerability to disease

  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances

  • Depressed appetite and poor diet

  • Dependence on medications.

  • Job performance issues

  • Isolation from friends and family

  • Fear and anxiety

  • Depression which can become severe leading to a higher risk of suicide

Prevalence of Chronic Pain

20 percent of American adults report suffering from chronic pain, a staggering number that is only expected to increase over coming years. It may seem paradoxical that the prevalence of chronic pain would increase as medicine becomes more sophisticated, but oddly, our scientific advancements are actually part of the reason chronic pain conditions will continue to increase steadily. The population is not only aging, but they’re living longer. Moreover, conditions such as cancer, serious injuries, HIV, that were once a death sentence, are now treatable. And, while the patients survive, they’re often left to deal with severe persistent neuropathic pain.

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