In normal injuries, the pain will reduce as the injury heals. With chronic pain, the body will continue to trigger pain signals.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain (also known as persistent pain) is a debilitating condition that refers to those experiencing acute pain for over 12 weeks. In the past, the common treatment for chronic pain would have been extended periods of bed rest, but this has now been proven to be actually detrimental to recovery with gentle exercise and continuing to work being recommended alongside a more extensive treatment plan.

What are the signs or symptoms of chronic pain?

In normal injuries, the pain will reduce as the injury heals, but with chronic pain, the body will continue to trigger pain signals to the brain which can go on for months and even years. This can be extremely frustrating to the person suffering as they cannot see an end to the condition.

There is no specific type of pain felt, some people will describe a dull, burning or aching sensation, whereas others may experience sharp bursts of pain in specific areas of the body. Chronic pain can affect any area of the body but common areas can include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Headaches
  • Arthritis pain

Some people may experience psychogenic pain which doesn’t have any root to the cause, making it even more difficult to identify and treat. Because pain is subjective, it is important that the patient communicates clearly with the expert diagnosing them so that there is a higher chance of treating the condition.

What are the causes of chronic pain?

There can be many causes of chronic pain, one being an existing injury such as a sprained back or pulled muscle. Those involved in traumatic events such as a car crash can be affected, or post-surgery. It’s believed that chronic pain is often triggered by nerve damage caused by an initial injury, which takes longer to heal than the injury itself.

As mentioned above, sometimes there is not a clear reason or injury from where the chronic pain stems from, which makes it difficult to cope with both the sufferer and those around them. Occasionally, underlying health conditions can lead to chronic pain, including:

  • Fibromyalgia: pain across the bones and muscles of the body
  • Endometriosis: a painful condition where the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome: where people suffer prolonged tiredness and sometimes pain

Types of chronic pain

Chronic pain can be divided into two types, neuropathic pain and nociceptive pain. The former refers to when nerves are damaged and the latter occurs when receptors in the nervous system (nociceptors) are activated by an injury. When these receptors turn on, they will always be activated and can malfunction, causing pain signals to be triggered to the brain after the initial injury.

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