What Is Chronic Pain
The terms chronic pain and persistent pain are often used interchangeably. Pain is said to be chronic if it persists beyond the normal healing time of about three months. 'Chronic' simply means ongoing and doesn't tell us much about the severity or quality of the pain.
Many people are new to the notion of chronic pain because they are taught that pain goes away when tissues heal after an injury or illness. However, this is not the case for 1 in 5 Australians and pain may not lessen when the healing process is complete.
Sometimes, it is not possible for doctors to pin point the cause of the pain and it can be frustrating not to have a diagnosis. Chronic pain is complex because it involves the nerves and nervous systems, including the central nervous system made up of the brain and spinal cord.
Chronic pain occurs because of changes to the nerves or nervous system which keeps the nerves firing and signaling pain. However, there are likely to be other precipitating factors with chronic pain including genetics, gender and previous episodes of acute pain. Chronic pain can be intense and unrelenting, and lead to various degrees of disability if it is not managed well.
Chronic pain is a condition in its own right because of the changes in the nervous system unrelated to the original diagnosis or injury, if there was one. Medical scientists are able to map pain centres in the brain using brain imaging, bringing hope to the many Australians who have not had their pain properly believed, assessed or treated in the past.