What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is long-term pain — pain in the body that lasts more than 12 weeks. It’s different from acute pain, which often signals an injury. With chronic pain, your body can continue to send pain signals to your brain even after the initial cause has been treated. Chronic pain can last a long time, even for months or years. Sometimes the reason for chronic pain is clear. The pain can begin with an illness or an injury, like a meniscus tear or a broken bone. Sometimes doctors can’t find a cause for chronic pain. When an underlying cause can’t be found for pain, it’s often called idiopathic pain.
Chronic pain is usually caused by one of two types of pain:
- Neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage to nerves
- Nociceptive pain, which is damage to tissue in the body
Some common kinds of chronic pain include:
- Headaches that occur frequently
- Pain from arthritis
- Lower back pain
- Pain following an injury or surgery
Chronic pain can cause, or happen alongside, other health problems, such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, low appetite, and changes in your mood. Having chronic pain can cause mobility issues or cause you to be less active, which can lower your flexibility, strength, and physical endurance. Because chronic pain can make it difficult to do every day activities, it can lead to depression.
Chronic pain is real, even if there is no known cause, and all chronic pain needs to be treated with the right pain management strategies.
What are some causes of chronic pain?
Many different conditions can cause chronic pain, and it can happen in any part of the body. Women, people who have recently had surgeries, people with injuries, and people who are overweight are more likely to experience chronic pain. Sometimes, people don’t have any of these risk factors but have a chronic condition, such as:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction)
Chronic pain and joint pain
One common cause of chronic pain is joint pain. Joint pain is any type of pain that occurs in one or more of your joints, such as your shoulder, hip, knee, or spine. When people experience chronic pain from injuries or illness in their joints, it can lead to mobility issues and interfere with daily life.
Joints form the connections between bones, provide support, and help your body move. If your joints become damaged due to disease, injury, or normal wear and tear, it can cause pain and mobility issues. Examples of conditions that can cause chronic pain in the shoulder, hip, knee, or spine joints include:
- Injuries, such as fractures and breaks
That could mean, more specifically, a joint problem such as:
- Back arthritis
- Frozen shoulder
- Hip bursitis
- ACL tear in the knee
Chronic pain from a joint condition can often be treated by treating the underlying condition (such as taking antirheumatics for arthritis). Doctors also treat joint pain with a combination of pain management strategies, such as physical therapy and pain medication. In some cases, surgery can also provide relief for chronic pain from a joint condition.
Chronic pain and neuropathic pain
Chronic pain is often caused by a type of pain called neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is pain that comes from damage to the nerves or nervous system. It causes a shooting and burning type of pain or numbness and tingling.
Neuropathic pain can be caused by many different conditions, including:
- HIV or AIDS
- Multiple sclerosis
- Joint problems in the spine
It can also be a side effect of chemotherapy.
Chronic neuropathic pain can go away on its own, but it can also be serious and persistent — even disabling. Neuropathic pain doesn’t always respond to normal pain management treatments, like pain killers. Treating the underlying condition can be a helpful pain management strategy. People with chronic neuropathic pain can also find physical therapy or alterative treatments like acupuncture or massage helpful.
How do doctors treat chronic pain?
Treatment for chronic pain depends on the cause — if doctors can find a cause. Treating chronic pain often means finding the right combination of pain management strategies. This can include:
- Physical therapy to help strengthen and stretch the affected muscles or joints
- Over the counter medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Prescription medicines, like opioids or antidepressants
- Medical procedures, such as electrical stimulation or nerve blocking
- Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or yoga
- Surgery to treat the underlying injury or illness
Different types of healthcare professionals may be involved in your chronic pain management team. They may include:
- Physical therapists
- Primary care physicians
- Rheumatologists (if your pain is related to arthritis)
- Neurologists (if you have neuropathic pain)
- Orthopedic surgeon (if you need surgery for a joint condition)
- Pain psychologists
We successfully treat chronic pain at Beaumont
At the Beaumont Centers for Pain Medicine and other locations, we treat chronic pain with the latest technology and pain management procedures. Our pain medicine team provides comprehensive and state-of-the-art care for pain. We have services to help patients with all forms of pain, including acute pain and chronic pain. Pain treatment at Beaumont is available through many different specialists in multiple disciplines.
We provide treatment from a multi-disciplinary perspective, individually tailoring care to meet each patient’s pain management needs. We can offer intervention methods to reduce pain severity, improve coping and quality of life, and increase physical functioning. Specialists at Beaumont's Centers for Pain Medicine treat chronic pain with the latest technology and pain management procedures. Our pain medicine team provides multidisciplinary and state-of-the-art care for pain. We have services to help patients with all forms of pain.
At Beaumont, we provide holistic treatment that’s individually tailored to help manage your pain.
Make an appointment at Beaumont
If you’re experiencing any kind of debilitating pain (or even just nagging pain), we can help. Call the Beaumont Physician Referral service today us today at 800-633-7377 to make an appointment and for assistance determining what Beaumont physician or clinic is the best choice for your pain management situation.