Chronic Pain

This is a serious health condition that may last from months to years and can occur in different parts of the body. This condition can negatively affect your daily life and provoke anxiety or depression. First, it is advised to treat the underlying condition but in some cases, it may not be possible. In such cases, physicians may prescribe you a combination of therapies, lifestyle changes, and medicines.

What is Chronic Pain?

Mostly, the duration of this condition is over 3 months. The pain can be all the time or temporary (come and go). This medical condition usually interacts with your working, social life, and others. As a result, some mental conditions may appear including depression or anxiety. Sleeping problems (insomnia) can also happen due to chronic pain.

Is There a Difference between Chronic Pain and Other Pain?

Another type of pain is called acute pain and it happens when you get hurt (such as experiencing a simple cut or a broken bone). However, this type of pain disappears when the body heals from what was provoked pain.

Chronic pain continues for long periods even if you recover from illness or injury. It occurs spontaneously and without any reason.

Where Does Chronic Pain Happen?

This condition usually appears in different forms and throughout the body. Check below the most common of them:

  • Arthritis (joint pain)
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Near a tumor (cancer pain)
  • Headaches (such as migraines)
  • Orchialgia (testicular pain)
  • Scar tissue pain
  • Fibromyalgia (muscle pain)
  • Neurogenic pain is usually provoked by nerve damage

How Common is Chronic Pain?

This medical condition is considered very common. However, it is also the most common reason why people seek medical attention. About 25% of adults experience chronic pain in the U.S.


Those who suffer from chronic pain often describe it differently. For example:

  • Squeezing
  • Burning
  • Shooting
  • Aching
  • Stiffness
  • Stinging
  • Throbbing

Additionally, this medical condition can also lead to other symptoms and health conditions. Examples include:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia (sleeping problems)
  • Mood swings and others


Usually, this condition occurs due to some existing health conditions such as arthritis and cancer. Furthermore, if you experience injuries or disease for long periods, the body may become more sensitive to pain. However, people may experience chronic pain even after they have healed from the underlying disease (including a broken bone, sprain, or infection).

In some circumstances, people can experience chronic pain that is not linked to any health conditions or injuries. Experts think that decreased endorphin levels in the blood can provoke psychogenic or psychosomatic pain. The natural chemicals that trigger positive feelings are called endorphins.


Experts consider the patient to have chronic pain if it recurs for at least three months. In some cases, determining the cause of pain may be challenging. In any case, if you experience chronic pain, inform your healthcare professional about:

  • Intensity and location of the pain
  • How frequently it happens
  • If you have stress or anxiety
  • Have you experienced other health conditions or surgeries
  • What factors make the pain worse or better
  • How chronic pain affects your life

Additionally, doctors may also perform some tests to identify the exact cause of pain. Examples include:

  • Blood tests
  • Electromyography (to check muscle activity)
  • Imaging tests (including MRI and X-rays)
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Spinal fluid tests
  • Urine tests
  • Reflex and balance tests


Commonly, to treat chronic pain, doctors should determine and treat the cause. However, in some cases, it is not possible to find the pain source. In such cases, they start treating or managing the pain. Chronic pain treatment usually depends on the pain type, the cause, your age, and overall health. In most cases, the best treatment involves a combination of medicines, therapies, and lifestyle changes.

If you also experience depression or anxiety along with chronic pain, you should also seek treatment for mental disorders as well. Not treating mental conditions, your pain may be worse. For example, depression, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and reduced activity can worsen your chronic pain.


The following drugs are usually prescribed by physicians to relieve chronic pain. Example include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Antidepressants (including tricyclic antidepressants)
  • Anticonvulsants used to prevent seizures
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Acetaminophen
  • Topical medicines
  • Opioids
  • Sedatives used to help with sleeping problems or anxiety
  • Medical Marijuana

Check below some additional treatments that your doctor may include:

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – This procedure involves small electrical shocks through skin patches.
  • Nerve blocks
  • Epidural steroid injections – This injection helps to reduce chronic pain provoked by inflammation and irritation of the spinal nerve roots. Your doctor will administer this injection in the epidural space (spinal nerves).

Treatment Adverse Reactions or Complications

All medicines can give you some side effects. Consult with your doctor about possible negative effects of drugs used in the treatment of chronic pain. Check below some possible complications:

  • Liver failure (from Acetaminophen treatment)
  • Opioid addiction
  • Nerve pain medicines can cause mood changes, confusion, and respiratory problems
  • Use of spinal cord stimulators can lead to spinal cord damage or infection

Lifestyle Changes

The following lifestyle factors can impact your chronic pain and help to reduce it. Examples include:

  • Stress – This factor plays an important role in chronic pain. Decreasing stress may help to relieve the pain. The following techniques usually help to manage stress. For example meditation, mindfulness, and deep breathing.
  • Exercise – In most cases, low-intensity exercises can help to lessen the pain. Examples include walking, light swimming, and others. In addition, previous exercises may also help in stress management.
  • Diet – Adopting a healthy diet can help to boost your overall health. Therefore, it is advised to avoid foods that provoke inflammation such as red meat and refined carbohydrates.
  • Sleep – Get enough quality sleep because otherwise, you may experience weight gain that worsens your chronic pain. Moreover, not getting enough sleep may elevate your stress levels.

If you are not sure how to incorporate the lifestyle changes listed above in your daily life, consult with your healthcare professional.


The following therapies usually are effective in chronic pain management. For example:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Counseling
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy

Are There Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain?

These treatments commonly are used along with others listed above and can improve chronic pain over time. Check below some examples:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnotherapy or hypnosis
  • Mindfulness training
  • Relaxation techniques (such as meditation, massage, and guided imagery)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is chronic pain a curable condition?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this health condition but treatment can lessen the symptoms. In most cases, people do not know the cause and cannot find a cure.

How to prevent chronic pain?

The condition itself cannot be prevented but you can consider the following tips to prevent risk factors for chronic pain. Examples include:

  • Family history (some types of chronic pain usually start in the family such as migraines)
  • Obesity (try to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight for you)
  • Age (certain people may experience chronic pain caused by arthritis and neuropathy with aging)
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Chronic stress
  • Smoking

Discuss with your doctor for more details.

What are possible chronic pain complications?

The complications of this condition are serious. That’s why it is advised to visit a doctor immediately if you experience chronic pain. Check some examples below:

  • Low quality of life
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Worsening of other existing chronic health conditions
  • Suicidal thoughts

Ask your doctor if you have additional questions.

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