Chronic pain overview

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Chronic pain was originally defined as pain that has lasted 6 months or longer. More recently it has been defined as pain that persists longer than the temporal course of natural healing, associated with a particular type of injury or disease process.[1]

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage."[2] It is important to note that pain is subjective in nature and is defined by the person experiencing it, and the medical community's understanding of chronic pain now includes the impact that the mind has in processing and interpreting pain signals.

As a summary;

  • Chronic pain is defined as pain that continues beyond the recognized time for the body to heal (usually 4-6 weeks)
  • Historically, chronic pain is underdiagnosed, and therefore undertreated
  • Chronic pain becomes a disease state itself without a physiologic role
  • Depending upon the distribution of symptoms, the pain can be categorized as regional or diffuse
  • High rates of psychiatric co-morbidities exist with these conditions


  1. Shipton EA, Tait B (2005). "Flagging the pain: preventing the burden of chronic pain by identifying and treating risk factors in acute pain". European journal of anaesthesiology. 22 (6): 405–12. PMID 15991501.
  2. Merskey H (1994). "Logic, truth and language in concepts of pain". Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation. 3 Suppl 1: S69–76. PMID 7866375.

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