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
- 5 Things You Should Know: The Science of Chronic Pain and Complementary Health Practices (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Antidepressants: Another Weapon Against Chronic Pain (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Biofeedback (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Chronic Pain and Complementary Health Approaches (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Managing Pain: Moving Beyond Opioids (National Institutes of Health)
- Pain Relievers: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Self Care (Beth Israel Medical Center, Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Continuum Center for Health and Healing)
- 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
- Chronic Pain and PTSD: A Guide for Patients (National Center for PTSD)
- Chronic Pain Can Interfere with Sexuality (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Employees with Chronic Pain (Office of Disability Employment Policy)
- Staying Fit with Chronic Pain (American Heart Association)
Statistics and Research
- Complementary Health Approaches for Chronic Pain: What the Science Says (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Dr. David Williams on Managing Chronic Pain (National Institutes of 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)
- Article: Drug dependence in patients with chronic pain: A retrospective study.
- Article: Efficacy of Internet-delivered cognitive-behavioral therapy for the management of chronic...
- Article: Pharmacological target therapy of neuropathic pain and patient-reported outcomes in...
- Chronic Pain -- see more articles
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
- Dealing with Persistent Pain in Older Adults (American Geriatrics Society)