Chronic Pain: At a Glance
Usually, pain is considered chronic if it
- Lasts more than 1 month longer than expected based on the illness or injury
- Recurs off and on for months or years
- Is associated with a chronic disorder (such as cancer or arthritis) or an injury that does not heal
Pain is the most common reason people visit their doctor.
See also Chronic Pain: The Impact on Daily Life.
Chronic pain can have many, sometimes serious consequences:
For a full discussion, see pain.
Chronic pain repeatedly stimulates the nerve fibers and cells that detect, send, and receive pain signals. Repeated stimulation can physically change nerve fibers and cells or make them more active and can thus increase pain transmission to the spinal cord and brain. As a result, things that might not ordinarily be painful become painful, and things that are painful may seem even more painful.
No examination nor test can prove that a person is in pain or determine how severe the pain is. So doctors often people to rate how severe their pain is using a standardized pain scale.
Doctors may prescribe opioid pain relievers when other treatments do not work.
Pain may also be treated as part of rehabilitation therapy. Such treatment makes movement easier and enables people to participate more fully in rehabilitation. Techniques used include heat therapy, cold therapy, electrical stimulation, traction, massage, and acupuncture.