What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is pain that lasts a long time or keeps coming back for months or years.
Chronic pain can happen because of a long-term disease or an injury that doesn’t heal
Sometimes your nervous system becomes more sensitive to pain signals than usual
You may have other symptoms such as feeling tired, problems sleeping, not feeling hungry, or not being interested in sex
You may also have emotional symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or withdrawing from social activities
Doctors can treat chronic pain with medicines, physical therapy, and treatments for emotional symptoms
What causes chronic pain?
Chronic pain can be caused by an ongoing problem such as:
A long-lasting disorder such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more , or fibromyalgia Fibromyalgia Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes you to have pain and tenderness all over your body, extreme tiredness, and sleep problems. You may have pain, stiffness, or achiness throughout your body... read more
An injury that hasn't completely healed
Also, if your nerves are constantly sending pain signals, sometimes that causes long-term changes in how your nerves work. These changes can make you more sensitive to pain signals. This can make existing pain seem worse and sometimes cause pain from something that isn't usually painful.
Sometimes doctors don't know what causes someone's chronic pain.
What are the symptoms of chronic pain?
You may have other symptoms along with the pain, such as:
Loss of appetite and weight
Lack of interest in sex and other activities you enjoy
Chronic pain can make it hard to work and do normal daily activities.
How do doctors treat chronic pain?
If doctors find a cause for your pain, they treat the cause.
Doctors also treat chronic pain using:
Physical therapy Physical Therapy (PT) Physical therapy, a component of rehabilitation, involves exercising and manipulating the body with an emphasis on the back, upper arms, and legs. It can improve joint and muscle function, helping... read more or occupational therapy Occupational Therapy (OT) Occupational therapy, a component of rehabilitation, is intended to enhance a person's ability to do basic self-care activities, useful work, and leisure activities. These activities include... read more —this may include stretches and exercises
Relaxation techniques Relaxation Techniques Relaxation, a type of mind-body medicine, includes practices specifically designed to relieve tension and stress. The specific technique may be aimed at the following: Controlling the stress... read more , hypnosis Hypnotherapy Hypnotherapy is a type of mind-body medicine. In hypnotherapy (hypnosis), people are guided into an advanced state of relaxation and heightened attention. Hypnotized people become absorbed in... read more , biofeedback Biofeedback Biofeedback, a type of mind-body medicine, is a method of bringing unconscious biologic processes under conscious control. In biofeedback, electronic devices are used to measure and report information... read more , and other behavioral and psychological therapies
Behavioral therapy may help you function better, even if it doesn’t lessen your pain. It may include gradually going out more socially and doing more physical activities. It may also include asking your family or co-workers to avoid things that keep you focused on the pain, such as constantly asking about your health or insisting you shouldn't do chores.
Depending on how severe your pain is, medicines may include:
NSAIDs What are NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)? Pain is an unpleasant feeling that tells your body you might be injured. Injuries, such as cuts, burns, fractures, sprains, and bruises, activate pain receptors around the injury. The pain receptors... read more —over-the-counter pain medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
Antidepressants or medicines to treat other symptoms
Your pain may vary throughout the day. Doctors may change the doses and the times you take your medicines to help with the pain.
Opioids usually treat moderate to severe pain from cancer or injuries such as a broken bone. They can have serious side effects, so your doctor may try other medicines first. If your doctor prescribes opioids, your doctor will check you often to make sure you're taking them safely. Opioids often don't work for the long term.