Tens of millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain -- pain that lasts
longer than six months. Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or
continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating.
With chronic pain, signals of pain remain active in the nervous system for
weeks, months, or even years. This can take both a physical and emotional toll
on a person.
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The most common sources of pain stem from headaches, joint pain, pain from
injury, and backaches. Other kinds of chronic pain include tendinitis, sinus pain, carpal
tunnel syndrome, and pain affecting specific parts of the body, such as the
shoulders, pelvis, and neck. Generalized muscle or nerve pain can also develop
into a chronic condition.
Chronic pain may originate with an initial trauma/injury or infection, or
there may be an ongoing cause of pain. However, some
people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of
The emotional toll of chronic pain also can make pain worse. Anxiety,
stress, depression, anger, and fatigue
interact in complex ways with chronic pain and may decrease the body's
production of natural painkillers; moreover, such negative feelings may
increase the level of substances that amplify sensations of pain, causing a
vicious cycle of pain for the person. Even the body's most basic defenses may
be compromised: There is considerable evidence that unrelenting pain can
suppress the immune system.
Because of the mind-body links associated with chronic pain, effective
treatment requires addressing psychological as well as physical aspects of the
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Pain?
The symptoms of chronic pain include:
Mild to severe pain that does not go away
Pain that may be described as shooting, burning, aching, or electrical
Feeling of discomfort, soreness, tightness, or stiffness
Pain is not a symptom that exists alone. Other problems associated with pain
Withdrawal from activity and increased need to rest
Weakened immune system
Changes in mood including hopelessness, fear, depression, irritability,
anxiety, and stress