What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is any level of pain that lasts for more than 3 months–or beyond an expected normal healing time. Those with chronic pain feel that their body has not healed, when this may not be the case. Chronic pain has lingered beyond the initial warning of danger to the body. Anyone can develop chronic pain, at any age. Furthermore, the brain changes when a person lives with chronic pain: When pain is constant or chronic, the brain and nervous system become highly sensitive, making it easier to experience pain. This becomes the “new normal” for the body, and keeps the person in a heightened state of sensitivity even though the injury may have healed.

Pain can affect many different areas of the brain―areas that may control an individual’s flight or fight responses, movements, emotions, problem-solving skills, and memory. We develop new “pain memories” that are unconsciously associated with an activity or emotional, or social situation.

Almost any system of the body can be affected by chronic pain. As an individual continues to experience pain, the circulatory and endocrine systems adapt to pain responses and can negatively affect whole health.

Chronic pain is quite common, but should not be considered normal. There are resources available to help individuals find solutions to reduce and potentially eliminate chronic pain.

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