What Causes Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is usually caused by an initial injury, such as a back sprain or pulled muscle. It’s believed that chronic pain develops after nerves become damaged. The nerve damage makes pain more intense and long lasting. In these cases, treating the underlying injury may not resolve the chronic pain.

In some cases, however, people experience chronic pain without any prior injury. The exact causes of chronic pain without injury aren’t well understood. The pain may sometimes result from an underlying health condition, such as:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome: characterized by extreme, prolonged weariness that’s often accompanied by pain
  • Endometriosis: a painful disorder that occurs when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus
  • Fibromyalgia: widespread pain in the bones and muscles
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: a group of conditions that causes painful, chronic inflammation in the digestive tract
  • Interstitial cystitis: a chronic disorder marked by bladder pressure and pain
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ): a condition that causes painful clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw
  • Vulvodynia: chronic vulva pain that occurs with no obvious cause

Who is at risk for chronic pain?

Chronic pain can affect people of all ages, but it’s most common in older adults. Besides age, other factors that can increase your risk of developing chronic pain include:

  • Having an injury
  • Having surgery
  • Being female
  • Being overweight or obese
  • How is chronic pain treated?
  • The main goal of treatment is to reduce pain and boost mobility. This helps you return to your daily activities without discomfort.

The severity and frequency of chronic pain can differ among individuals. So doctors create pain management plans that are specific to each person. Your pain management plan will depend on your symptoms and any underlying health conditions. Medical treatments, lifestyle remedies, or a combination of these methods may be used to treat your chronic pain.

Medical procedures for chronic pain

Certain medical procedures can also provide relief from chronic pain. An example of a few are:

electrical stimulation, which reduces pain by sending mild electric shocks into your muscles

nerve block, which is an injection that prevents nerves from sending pain signals to your brain

acupuncture, which involves lightly pricking your skin with needles to alleviate pain

surgery, which corrects injuries that may have healed improperly and that may be contributing to the pain

Lifestyle remedies for chronic pain

Additionally, various lifestyle remedies are available to help ease chronic pain. Examples include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Art and music therapy
  • Pet therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Massage
  • Meditation

Dealing with chronic pain

There isn’t a cure for chronic pain, but the condition can be managed successfully. It’s important to stick to your pain management plan to help relieve symptoms.

Physical pain is related to emotional pain, so chronic pain can increase your stress levels. Building emotional skills can help you cope with any stress related to your condition. Here are some steps you can take to reduce stress:

  • Take good care of your body: Eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can keep your body healthy and reduce feelings of stress.
  • Continue taking part in your daily activities: You can boost your mood and decrease stress by participating in activities you enjoy and socializing with friends. Chronic pain may make it challenging to perform certain tasks. But isolating yourself can give you a more negative outlook on your condition and increase your sensitivity to pain.
  • Seek support: Friends, family, and support groups can lend you a helping hand and offer comfort during difficult times. Whether you’re having trouble with daily tasks or you’re simply in need of an emotional boost, a close friend or loved one can provide the support you need.


AAPM facts and figures on pain. (n.d.).


ACPA resource guide to chronic pain treatment: An integrated guide to physical, behavioral and pharmacologic therapy. (2016).


Coping with chronic pain. (n.d.).


Dowell D, et al. (2016). CDC guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain – United States, 2016. DOI:


Kelleher JH, et al. (2017). Neurotrophic factors and their inhibitors in chronic pain treatment. DOI:


McGreevy K, et al. (2012). Preventing chronic pain following acute pain: Risk factors, preventive strategies, and their efficacy. DOI:


NINDS chronic pain information page. (2016).


Rayner L, et al. (2016). Depression in patients with chronic pain attending a specialized pain

 treatment center: Prevalence and impact on health care costs. DOI:


image source: https://www.emergency-live.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/dolore-alla-spalla-sindrome-da-impingement-back-pain.jpg

More tips

Featured Videos