Pain is the body's mechanism of self-preservation. It acts as a warning to indicate that harm or damage is happening, or is about to happen, to tissues in our bodies. Pain may be defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. The emotional component of pain is called suffering. Pain is familiar to everyone, and yet it is so complex and subjective that it cannot be easily described or treated.

It is estimated that 30 to 40 million Americans a year suffer from pain that does not respond to aspirin or ibuprofen. Many of these people are older adults. In some patients, the pain may have begun with an initial incident, such as a fall or accident or serious infection, or an underlying medical condition, such as arthritis or cancer. However, some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of physical damage. Chronic pain is longstanding pain that persists beyond the usual recovery period or occurs along with a chronic health condition. Because this pain is not protective and is not a result of an ongoing injury, it is referred to as "pathological" and is therefore treated as a condition, not as a symptom.

Chronic pain may affect people to the point that they cannot work, eat properly, participate in physical activity, or enjoy life. Estimated costs for treating chronic pain, both directly and indirectly, are close to $50 billion a year.

Chronic Pain Overview

  • Treatment


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