Chronic pain is pain (an unpleasant sense of discomfort) that persists or progresses over a long period of time. Chronic pain typically has persisted for at least three months. In contrast to acute pain that arises suddenly in response to a specific injury and is usually treatable, chronic pain persists over time and is often resistant to medical treatments. Chronic pain tends to interfere with the ability to perform activities of daily living and affects the quality of life.
Chronic pain may be related to a number of different medical conditions, previous trauma or injury. Chronic pain in older adults is often related to degenerative conditions that are caused by advancing age, including arthritis and wear and tear issues affecting the spine. These conditions commonly cause pain in the back, neck, hips, and knees.
Chronic pain may worsen in response to environmental and/or psychological factors.
There are a variety of treatment options for people with chronic pain. The goal of pain management is to provide symptom relief and improve an individual's level of functioning in daily activities. A number of types of medications have been used in the management of chronic pain. Interestingly, chronic pain can sometimes be relieved by stopping smoking and/or caffeine, reducing weight, exercising, optimizing nutrition and/or sleep. Chronic pain requires the diligent monitoring of caring health care providers.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Chronic Pain Syndrome: Treatment and Management for CPS
What is chronic pain syndrome (CPS)? See causes, symptoms and treatment options including medications. Learn about pain...
Pain Management: 15 Easy Ways to Reduce Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be a symptom of many conditions, including arthritis, headaches, and others. Comprehensive pain management...
Pain Quiz: Test Your IQ of Pain
Is pain all in the brain? Take the Pain Quiz to learn everything you've ever wanted to know about the unpleasant sensation we...
Causes of Chronic Pain
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation of the spine. The tendency to develop ankylosing...
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness...
Cancer pain results from the tumor pressing on nerves or invading bones or organs. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy,...
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS or SEID)
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) is a debilitating and complex disorder...
Cluster Headache (Symptoms, Causes, Treatment Relief, Cures)
Cluster headache is a type of headache that recurs over a period of time. There are episodes that last one to three times a...
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one...
Diabetic Neuropathy (Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment)
Diabetic neuropathy a condition in which nerve damage has occurred as a complication of diabetes. The pain from the nerve...
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and tender points. Stress...
Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer is cancer of the oral cavity, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, or lymph...
Headaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches,...
Headaches in Children
Kids get headaches and migraines too. Many adults with headaches started having them as kids, in fact, 20% of adult headache...
Bursitis of the hip results when the fluid-filled sac (bursa) near the hip becomes inflamed due to localized soft tissue trauma...
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Intestinal Problems of IBD)
The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). The intestinal complications of...
Insomnia (Symptoms, Causes, Remedies, and Cures)
Insomnia is the perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep because of difficulty falling asleep; waking up...
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms, Diet, Treatment, and Test
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a GI (gastrointestinal) disorder with signs and symptoms of: Abdominal...
Bursitis of the knee results when any of the three fluid-filled sacs (bursae) become inflamed due to injury or strain. Symptoms...
Acute injuries, medical conditions, and chronic use conditions are causes of knee pain. Symptoms and signs that accompany knee...
Lower Back Pain
There are many causes of back pain. Pain in the low back can relate to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae,...
Migraine headaches are severe headaches that are sensitive to light, sounds, and smells. Some people who suffer from...
Multiple Sclerosis (MS Symptoms, Causes, and Life Expectancy)
Multiple sclerosis or MS is an autoimmune disorder in which brain and spinal cord nerve cells become demyelinated. This damage...
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome is muscle pain in the body's soft tissues due to injury or strain. Symptoms include muscle pain with...
Neck Pain (Cervical Pain)
Neck pain (cervical pain) may be caused by any number of disorders and diseases. Tenderness is another symptom of neck pain....
Neuropathic pain is a chronic condition that leads to ongoing pain symptoms. Patients can be predisposed to developing...
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also...
Pain management and treatment can be simple or complex, according to its cause. There are two basic types of pain, nociceptive...
Pain Management: Musculoskeletal Pain
Natural menopause is the permanent ending of menstruation that is not brought on by any type of medical treatment. For women...
Pancreatitis (Acute, Chronic) Symptoms, Causes, Diet, and Treatment
Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic....
Peripheral neuropathy is a problem with the functioning of the nerves outside of the spinal cord. Symptoms may include numbness,...
Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD Symptoms, Signs, Causes, Treatments)
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and...
Pseudogout, a form of arthritis, results when deposits of crystals collect in and around the joints. Symptoms of pseudogout...
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that causes skin and joint inflammation. Symptoms include painful, stiff, and swollen joints,...
Reactive arthritis is a chronic, systemic rheumatic disease characterized by three conditions, including conjunctivitis, joint...
Repetitive Motion Disorders (RMDs)
Repetitive motion disorders (RMDs) are muscular conditions that result from repeated motions. Carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger...
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints,...
Sciatica pain, caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, typically radiates from the low back to behind the thigh to below the...
Shoulder and Neck Pain
Shoulder and neck pain may be caused by bursitis, a pinched nerve, whiplash, tendinitis, a herniated disc, or a rotator cuff...
Shoulder bursitis is inflammation of the shoulder bursa. Bursitis may be caused by injury, infection, or a rheumatic condition....
A spinal tap or an epidural block can cause a spinal headache. In these procedures, a needle is placed within the fluid-filled...
Stress occurs when forces from the outside world impinge on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life. However,...
Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a disorder that causes symptoms like pain, clicking, and popping of the jaw. TMJ is...
Tension Headache (Symptoms, Relief, Causes, Treatment)
A tension headache s one of the most common types of headaches, and the exact cause is not known. Factors that may contribute to...
Pain that originates in the face is referred to as trigeminal neuralgia. This pain may be caused by: an injury, an infection...
Uterine Fibroids (Benign Tumors of the Uterus)
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that originate in the uterus and are usually round or semi-round in shape. The most common...
Whiplash is a common injury to a person's neck following a car accident (in most cases). Symptoms include: headache, neck...
Other Causes of Chronic Pain
- Previous Injury
- Previous Trauma
Examples of Medications for Chronic Pain
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- codeine (for Pain)
- Cox-2 Inhibitors
- duloxetine - oral, Cymbalta
- fentanyl patch (Duragesic)
- hydrocodone (Zohydro ER)
- hydrocodone and ibuprofen, Vicoprofen
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- morphine sustained-action capsule - oral, Kadian
- orphenadrine (Norflex)
- perphenazine and amitriptyline hydrochloride (Etrafon - brand no longer available in the US)
- propoxyphene and acetaminophen, Darvocet A500; Darvocet-N, Wygesic
- propoxyphene, Darvon, Darvon-N, Dolene
- tramadol and acetaminophen, Ultracet
- Tramadol: for Pain (Ultram, Ultram ER, Conzip)
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter