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Chronic Pain - Cause

The cause of chronic pain is not clear.

When you have an injury or illness, certain nerves send pain signals to your brain. With chronic pain, these pain signals keep going for weeks, months, or even years after you recover.

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Chronic pain can develop after a major injury or illness, such as a back injury or shingles, or it can happen without a known cause. It is also possible that certain brain chemicals that usually suppress pain stop working the way they're supposed to.

Pain can affect:

  • Muscles, bones, and joints. This pain can happen from injuries or muscle strain. Health problems like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia also can cause it.
  • Nerves and the nervous system. This type of pain happens because of pressure on nerves or damage to them from an injury or a health problem. Sometimes pain occurs when something goes wrong with the central nervous system. This can happen with diabetes, shingles, and sciatica, for example.
  • Organs. Pain in your organs occurs because of injuries, infections, or health problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic pain, and stomach ulcers.

You can have more than one kind of pain at the same time. For example, fibromyalgia can cause pain in muscles and nerves.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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