About Chronic Pain

Chronic or persistent pain is pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment.

Most people get back to normal after pain following an injury or operation. But sometimes the pain carries on for longer or comes on without any history of an injury or operation.

Chronic pain can also affect people living with:

  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • irritable bowel
  • back pain

What is pain?

The brain and the nerves inside the spine (the spinal nerves) make up the central nervous system. The spinal nerves carry messages from the body to the brain including signals that tell the brain there’s pain somewhere.

The brain acts like a control centre working out how serious the source of the problem is and what strength the pain should be. Sometimes the brain’s interpretation of these signals isn’t always accurate.

We expect pain to settle down with time but sometimes the brain continues to send out pain signals. These signals can be hard to stop, are often intense and at times seem to come on for no obvious reason. This fact isn’t always easy to understand and sometimes people feel that they’re being told the pain is in their ‘head’ and ‘not real’.

Chronic pain affects around 1 in 5 people. It can affect all ages and all parts of the body.

It isn’t possible to tell in advance whose pain will become chronic. But we know that people are more likely to develop chronic pain during or after times of stress or unhappiness.

People can also experience chronic pain even after usual medical tests don’t provide an answer.