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If you have never dealt with chronic pain – or taken care of a loved one who suffers from it – it can be a challenging concept to understand. Whether you are afraid that you are dealing with chronic pain or you are already facing it and want to help your friends and family understand what it’s like, an overview of what chronic pain is and how it works can be helpful.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is any type of pain that lasts longer than six months. It is the opposite of acute pain, which occurs after a disease or an injury that affects tissues in your body. While acute pain comes on suddenly and can be diagnosed or treated, chronic pain is persistent. In some cases, acute pain can develop into chronic pain.

What is living with chronic pain like?

The manifestation of chronic pain is as different as the individuals affected by it. Two people who have the same exact condition can experience the pain very differently. Chronic pain can be mild or severe. It can simply inconvenience your daily life, or make it impossible for you to do regular activities such as housework, driving, or working. The pain can be shooting, burning, aching, or stabbing. Individuals with chronic pain often experience stiffness and tightness in their body as well.

Chronic pain can take a toll on the rest of the body. It can result in depression, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. Once your body becomes fatigued as a result of living with chronic pain, your body can become so tense that it makes the pain worse. The emotional affects that chronic pain has can be almost as difficult as the physical struggles.

What are the causes of chronic pain?

The causes of chronic pain are varied. Common conditions that cause chronic pain are fibromyalgia and endometriosis. Headaches, back pain, and pain in the joints are frequent locations. While pain can affect a specific area, like the shoulder or the neck, it can also be a general muscle or nerve pain felt over the entire body.

How is it treated?

The most effective way to treat chronic pain is to treat the condition that is causing it. Pain can be a complex process. In general, pain signals are sent from somewhere on your body to the brain via your spinal cord. An effective way to manage chronic pain is to block or modify pain signals by manipulating the nerves near the spinal cord through injections or other means.

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