No doubt about it -- plenty of us are suffering from chronic pain. More than
50 million Americans have some form of this malady, according to the American
Academy of Pain Medicine. But having lots of company doesn’t make it any easier
to bear. Chronic pain wears people down, causes fatigue and insomnia, and
results in missed work and social isolation. What can you do if chronic pain is
interfering with your life? Start by learning what you know -- and maybe don’t
know -- about it with this true or false quiz.
As recently as 20 years ago, people with chronic pain were too often dismissively
told that their problem was "in their heads" or that they were
hypochondriacs. But in the last decade, a handful of dedicated researchers
learned that chronic pain is not simply a symptom of something else -- such as
anxiety, depression, or a need for
attention -- but a disease in its own right, one that can alter a person's
emotional, professional, and family life in profound and debilitating ways.
False. Years ago, some doctors and other experts accused people with
chronic pain of being hypochondriacs and told them the pain was all in their
heads. Today, experts agree: The pain is real, and it turns out the head is
involved because there are ways to train the mind to overcome the pain. These
techniques include biofeedback, relaxation techniques, and visual imagery.
Chronic pain is a normal part of aging.
False. Chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts longer than you would
expect from the original illness or injury, does not go hand in hand with
aging. That said, older people are more likely to be injured or develop
conditions that cause pain, such as arthritis or osteoporosis.
The painful condition known as “runner’s knee” most often afflicts
False. Runner’s knee, which causes achy, creaky knees, happens more
often in women, who have six times as many knee problems of all types as men.
This is because a woman’s naturally wide pelvis causes her thighs to slant
inward, creating pressure on the knees. And you don’t need to be an athlete to
get runner’s knee (also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome); it also
afflicts people with arthritis or flat feet.
People with chronic pain are prone to depression.
True. The American Pain Foundation estimates that one-quarter to more
than half of those who complain of pain to their doctors are clinically
depressed. Being in chronic pain makes it less tolerable to deal with daily
activities, which can lead to depression. Why? There’s a biologic connection at
work: Pain and emotional sensations share the same brain pathway. Chronic pain
can cause changes in brain chemistry that not only magnify the severity of the
pain, but may also lead to clinical depression. Medications and therapy can
treat both chronic pain and depression.
Women who get migraines and severe headaches may have fewer after
True -- for most women, that is. Migraines and severe headaches occur
most often in women of childbearing age, which may be due to fluctuating
hormones (especially estrogen) during the menstrual cycle. After menopause,
these fluctuations decline for about two-thirds of women. For others, however,
menopause can worsen migraines or trigger them to start. The migraines usually
improve once menopause ends.
American Academy of Pain Medicine: “Untying the Knot.” WebMD Chronic Pain
Treatment Center, “Chronic Pain: New Research, New Treatments.” WebMD Chronic
Web MD Knee Pain Center: Why You Must Protect Your Knees.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “ Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral
WebMD Depression Guide: “Depression and Chronic Pain.”
Jann, M. and Slade, J., Pharmacotherapy, Vol. 27, No. 11, 2007,
American Headache Society: “Migraine in Women.”