Pain is a signal in your nervous system that something may be wrong. It is an unpleasant feeling, such as a prick, tingle, sting, burn, or ache. Pain may be sharp or dull. You may feel pain in one area of your body, or all over. There are two types: acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain lets you know that you may be injured or a have problem you need to take care of. Chronic pain is different. The pain may last for weeks, months, or even years. The original cause may have been an injury or infection. There may be an ongoing cause of pain, such as arthritis or cancer. In some cases there is no clear cause. Environmental and psychological factors can make chronic pain worse.
Many older adults have chronic pain. Women also report having more chronic pain than men, and they are at a greater risk for many pain conditions. Some people have two or more chronic pain conditions.
Chronic pain is not always curable, but treatments can help. There are drug treatments, including pain relievers. There are also non-drug treatments, such as acupuncture, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Treatments and Therapies
- Antidepressants: Another Weapon Against Chronic Pain (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Managing Pain: Moving Beyond Opioids (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
- Non-Drug Pain Management: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Pain Relievers: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Chronic Pain (American Occupational Therapy Association)
- Coping with Chronic Pain (American Psychological Association) Also in Spanish
- Quality of Life Scale: A Measure of Function for People with Pain (American Chronic Pain Association) - PDF
Statistics and Research
- Complementary Health Approaches for Chronic Pain: What the Science Says (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Scientists Take a Close-Up of Key Pain-Sensing Molecule (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)
- Study Suggests Brain Is Hard-Wired for Chronic Pain (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Chronic Pain (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- American Chronic Pain Association
- Find a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician (American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation)
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Also in Spanish
- NIH Pain Consortium
- Pain Management (American Geriatrics Society)