About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating.
With chronic pain, signals of pain remain active in the nervous system for months or even years. This can take both a physical and emotional toll on a person.
The most common sources of pain stem from headaches, joint pain, pain from injury, and backaches. Other kinds of chronic pain include tendinitis, sinus pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pain affecting specific parts of the body, such as the shoulders, pelvis, and neck. Generalized muscle or nerve pain can also develop into a chronic condition.
Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain. In the US, it impacts about 100 million adults, which is more than the number impacted by diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.
It can be a challenging condition to treat because while some chronic pain is associated with an injury or disease, in other cases there is no initial event (such as a back injury, infection, arthritis, or cancer) that caused the pain.
Chronic Pain Is a Leading Cause of Disability
Chronic pain (particularly back pain) is a leading cause of disability among Americans, significantly interfering with quality of life and productivity. When the medical costs and economic costs (disability, lost wages, and lost productivity) are factored in, pain care costs the US health care system up to $635 billion a year.
This is a strikingly high number, but you can't put a price on the damage chronic pain can do to an …
The emotional toll of chronic pain also can make pain worse. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger, and fatigue interact in complex ways with chronic pain and may decrease the body's production of natural painkillers; moreover, such negative feelings may increase the level of substances that amplify sensations of pain, causing a vicious cycle of pain for the person. Even the body's most basic defenses may be compromised: There is considerable evidence that unrelenting pain can suppress the immune system.
Because of the mind-body links associated with chronic pain, effective treatment requires addressing psychological as well as physical aspects of the condition.
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