This page is a printable version of: https://www.iow.nhs.uk/our-services/planned-care-services/chronic-and-acute-pain/what-is-chronic-pain.htm
Date: 28 November 2023
What is Pain?
The majority of people will experience pain at some point in their lives. It is the way the body alerts us to possible disease and injury, the feeling of pain force us to avoid/remove ourselves from the potential harm.
The experience/feeling of pain is generated in the brain. When an injury or inflammation occurs to a part of the body this stimulates the nerve sensors in that area. The nerves then send signals up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain then decides whether, at that time, it is important to send back a signal to the damaged area these signals trigger the feeling and experience of pain.
What is Chronic Pain?
However, the above explanation does not explain why some people experience persistent/chronic pain, even when there is no longer damage or inflammation in that area.
Pain is considered chronic when it has persisted for more than 3 months or goes beyond the time expected for an injury to heal. Chronic pain can also occur without any objective cause.
With Chronic pain the nerves continue to send signals to the brain despite there being no injury, danger or inflammation. The brain then continues to send back the signals that trigger the feeling and experience of pain. As a result pain is still felt.
Like other chronic conditions chronic pain usually cannot be cured but it quite often can be controlled and managed with a range of treatments to enable you to continue with life.