- Chronic pain
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Chronic pain is a condition in which there is long-term pain. It is due to an on-going firing of the nervous system that signals pain for weeks, months, or even years. Chronic pain has many causes and can manifest in a large variety of physical and mental symptoms, including depression. Chronic pain can be due to an injury or an illness or the pain may be psychogenic. Psychogenic pain is pain that is not related to any illness, physical condition, or injury.
Chronic pain is different than acute pain. Acute pain is experienced rapidly in response to disease or an injury. Acute pain serves to alert the body that something is wrong and an action should be taken, such stopping an activity that is causing the pain. Chronic pain persists beyond this window and continues even after steps have been taken to address the cause of the pain.
Chronic pain often begins as an acute injury with acute pain. The pain then lingers beyond the natural course of healing. Common injuries that can lead to chronic pain include joint, back, neck and spinal cord injuries. Chronic pain also frequently results from a disease process. Common examples include shingles, osteomyelitis, arthritis and cancer. Other common causes of chronic pain include migraine headache and fibromyalgia.
Recent studies have found that some people with chronic pain may have low levels of endorphins in their spinal fluid. Endorphins are neurochemicals, similar to opiate drugs such as morphine. Endorphins are produced by the brain and released into the body in response to pain as a natural pain killer.
Chronic pain most often affects older adults, but it can occur at any age. There are a wide variety of chronic pain symptoms, which can be mild, moderate, or severe. No matter what the cause, age of the person, or intensity, chronic pain may seriously impede a person's ability to concentrate, work, and participate in the activities of daily living. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of chronic pain.
A diagnosis of chronic pain is made by taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, pain triggers, and performing a physical exam and a mental health assessment. A neurologic exam is also done to test the functioning of the nerves. Part of the diagnostic process includes keeping a pain log and recording such details as the length of pain, where it occurs, when it occurs, the intensity of the pain, and what factors seem to bring it on, make it worse, and relieve it.
Diagnostic testing may also include a wide variety of tests, depending on an individual's case, to find the source(s) or causes(s) of pain. Tests can include blood tests and radiological imaging, such as X-ray, CT scan, ultrasound, and/or MRI. An electromyogram (EMG) may be ordered to help determine if pain is coming from the nerves or the muscles. Nerve blocks, in which an anesthetic is injected into a nerve, may also be used to determine if a particular nerve is the source of chronic pain.
Because the symptoms of chronic pain may be similar to other conditions, a missed or delayed diagnosis is possible. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of chronic pain.
Chronic pain: Chronic pain is the result of an ongoing long-term firing of the nervous system that signals pain for weeks, months, or even years. Chronic pain has many causes and can manifest in a large variety of physical and mental symptoms, including depression. Chronic pain can be due to an injury or an illness or the pain may be psychogenic. Psychogenic pain is not related to any illness, physical condition, or injury.
Chronic pain often affects older adults, but it can occur at any age. Chronic pain can be mild, moderate, or severe. No matter what the cause, age of the person, or intensity, chronic pain may seriously impede a person's ability to concentrate, work, and participate in the activities of daily living. ...more »
Symptoms of chronic pain can differ in intensity, frequency, and duration amongst individuals. Symptoms can be minimal to intense and include joint pain, muscle, headache, neck pain, low back pain, pain due to cancer, neurogenic pain (pain due to nerve or central nervous system damage) and visceral pain (pain that comes from the body's organs).
Because of ...more symptoms »
With a well integrated, multifaceted treatment plan, chronic pain can be effectively controlled and minimized. A good treatment plan is individualized to a person's medical history, severity of chronic pain, the specific cause, and other factors.
Common treatments include medications and alternative therapies to address and control pain and treatments to address the specific cause of pain, ...more treatments »
A diagnosis of the chronic pain begins with taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, and performing a physical exam.
A diagnosis of chronic pain may be overlooked or delayed because symptoms may be mild in some people and may be easily attributed to other causes, such as aging. Some people with chronic pain may also delay treatment because they ...more misdiagnosis »
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Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to diagnose, and all...read more »
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Prognosis for Chronic pain: Many people with chronic pain can be helped if they understand all the causes of pain and the many and varied steps that can be taken to undo what chronic pain has done. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Chronic Pain Information Page: NINDS)
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While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Chronic Pain Information Page: NINDS)
Chronic pain is widely believed to represent disease itself. It can be made much worse by environmental and psychological factors. Chronic pain persists over a longer period of time than acute pain and is resistant to most medical treatments. It canóand often doesócause severe problems for patients. (Source: excerpt from Pain -- Hope Through Research: NINDS)
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