Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting longer than 3 months, giving otherwise adequate time for healing.
Chronic pain is not just a physical problem but can also have significant impact on wellbeing and mental health. This can vary between patients but in some individuals can lead to complete loss of independence. Almost half of those with chronic pain also suffer with depression.
1 in 4 UK adults suffer with a chronic pain syndrome.
The symptoms associated with chronic pain will depend on the underlying cause for the pain. The pain may be mild or severe and continuous or sporadic.
The 3 most common pain locations are back pain, headache, and joint pain.
Chronic pain is not only a physical problem; it often has severe effects on psychological, social and economic health.
Chronic pain can be localised or generalised and is divided into 5 categories based on suspected cause:
- Myofascial (muscle and connective tissue);
- Musculoskeletal (mechanical);
- Neuropathic (nerve);
- Fibromyalgia (widespread pain);
- Chronic headache.
Chronic pain is usually diagnosed by taking a thorough history and examination to identify the type of pain, severity, functional impact and context.
Patients with musculoskeletal pain may benefit from X-Rays of the affected joint(s).
In neuropathic pain, nerve conduction studies and electromyography are frequently used to identify which nerves are affected.
A clinician may make recommendations for other investigations depending on the underlying cause of the pain.