Living with chronic pain

Chronic pain can appear in many different forms and is often difficult to define.

Although it is not always included in the normal health and illness classifications, chronic pain is a chronic illness. Conditions such as diabetes and asthma, for example, are well known and generally have straightforward, identifiable chronic disease symptoms. The general causes of chronic pain can be more difficult to isolate, treat and manage. Even more of a challenge, chronic pain can appear in many different forms. Most commonly, chronic pain is associated in partnership with other chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, nerve and muscular disease.

Controlling the emotion of chronic pain

Sadly, chronic pain is rarely addressed by health services. For individuals living with chronic pain (and this would include those attached to the primarily affected person, such as caregivers and in-home family members) life is neither simple nor smooth sailing. That is not to say that all is dark and gloomy, nor is it to imply a frailty stigma highly associated with those living with chronic pain. However, until you have walked a few steps in the shoes of someone living with chronic pain you have no idea how emotionally stubborn pain can be. For individuals living with chronic pain, there may be social sufferings and quality of life can soon be compromised.

How is chronic pain defined?

If we think back to a time we had a toothache or a broken toe, we can quickly identify this with pain. These are both examples of acute pain or pain that comes on quickly. Acute pain can be severe but lasts a relatively short period of time. However, chronic pain is pain that persists or recurs for more than three months. It may be related to a condition or may be pain from an injury or operation that continues after normal healing would usually take place.

Research is ongoing around the study of chronic pain as a chronic disease.  Much is being studied right now in the prevention of, and the treatment for chronic pain. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke works to clinically identify targets within the body such as:

  • Receptors – A movement towards targeting pain receptors as a pathway to pain relief
  • Channels- New drugs which focus on channeling at the cellular level to combat pain
  • Trophic factors- Preventing cell death while promoting enhancing nerve connections
  • Gene transfer-The use of genes versus drugs to kick-start the body’s own pain relief system
  • Imagining-Comparing brain scans of chronic pain experience in the effort to use conduits for treatment use
  • Plasticity-Studying the body’s scope of pain in the hopes that chronic pain can be isolated,  prevented and treated

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists the most common causes of chronic pain as a headache, back pain, cancer pain, arthritis, neurologic and psychogenic, central and outer nervous system pain. Commonly known chronic conditions causing pain include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, spinal stenosis and sports pain.

Finding support for chronic pain

  • Your doctor
  • Pain clinic
  • Support groups
  • Holistic approach
  • Pain therapists

P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824

American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA 95677-0850 External link
Tel: 916-632-0922; 800-533-3231
Fax: 916-652-8190

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