Chronic pain

What is chronic pain?

Chronic or persistent pain is pain that lasts for more than 3 months, or in many cases, beyond normal healing time. It is different from acute pain, such as pain from an injury, which develops quickly and doesn’t usually last for long.


Chronic pain is a complex condition, and everyone experiences it differently. The pain can range from mild to severe and is experienced on most days.

What causes chronic pain?

There are different types of chronic pain, including nerve pain, pain caused by a bone, muscle or joint condition, as well as pain due to cancer.

Chronic pain can also be caused by illnesses such as migraine, osteoporosis, arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, or after an injury or surgery. Sometimes there is no apparent cause of chronic pain.



Normally, if you have an injury, nerves carry signals from the injured part of your body to the brain, telling the brain that there’s a problem. The brain reads these signals as pain.


But when someone has chronic pain, the nerves that carry pain signals to the brain, or the brain itself, are behaving in an unusual way. The nerves might be more sensitive than usual, or the brain might be misreading other signals as pain.



Acute pain can develop into a chronic pain condition if left untreated or if the acute pain is poorly treated. The longer pain remains untreated, the greater the risk of pain becoming chronic.



If you are concerned about your pain, talk to your doctor.

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Last reviewed: January 2021