Causes of chronic pain & how we treat this elusive condition

January 20, 2021

Chronic pain is a condition that describes persistent pain that lasts from weeks to years,  typically more than 12 consecutive weeks. Chronic pain is most common in people between 40 and 60 years of age, and according to the American Pain Foundation, it affects 42 to 50 million Americans. 

The causes of chronic pain are as broad as the condition itself. Some reported causes of chronic pain are illness, old injury, and genetic conditions. More specifically, some patients have established a correlation of their pain with arthritis, nerve damage, depression, motor vehicle accidents, and more.

Chronic pain diagnosis and treatment

First, it’s essential to understand that some kinds of chronic pain may have numerous causes. Back pain, for example, may be caused by a single factor or a combination of factors, such as:

  • Years of poor posture
  • Improper lifting and carrying of heavy objects
  • Being overweight, which puts excess strain on the back and knees
  • A congenital condition such as curvature of the spine
  • Traumatic injury
  • Wearing high heels
  • Sleeping on a poor mattress
  • Ordinary aging of the spine (degenerative changes)

Pain is both personal and subjective. Because of this, it may be difficult to diagnose chronic pain. We rely on each patient’s “pain history” to determine the optimal diagnostic method. This history includes a description of pain (sharp, dull, constant, etc.) and the type, location, and severity. There are dozens of tests we can potentially perform to precisely locate the pain and hopefully uncover the cause.

While chronic pain may be effectively treated, very rarely is there a cure. You will likely need ongoing treatments for months, years, or an indefinite amount of time to manage pain. 

Common questions about the cause of chronic pain

What are the symptoms of chronic pain?

Chronic pain can cause discomfort in all areas of the body, the severity of which varies greatly. It can also negatively impact sleep cycles and appetite. This often results in extreme fatigue and mood changes, with an increased risk of depression.

What is injury-related chronic pain?

When chronic pain is caused by an injury, this means that the pain remains after the expected healing period is over. You may have surgery or physical therapy to rehabilitate an athletic injury or work-related injury, followed by a recovery period that generally lasts for a few months. If pain remains after that period of time, we would consider you to have chronic pain.

What is illness-related chronic pain?

When chronic pain is caused by an illness, especially in older adults, the pain may not resolve even after the illness is gone. You may also have symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, changes in mood, and a lack of sleep. If the illness is gone, and you still have these symptoms in addition to chronic pain, you may need help with pain management.

What is psychological chronic pain?

Psychological pain is often associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. Your body senses a pain signal as a symptom of the bigger problem, but there is no actual evidence of an injury or illness, other than the mental illness. Chronic pain associated with mental illness may be resolved by treating the illness with medication and therapy, but for many patients, the pain remains after treatment stops.

What kinds of diseases can be related to chronic pain? 

Disease can also be the underlying cause of chronic pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia are well-known examples, but persistent pain may also be due to conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, stomach ulcers, AIDS, and gallbladder disease.

How we can improve chronic pain

Seeking treatment for chronic pain no matter what the cause is typically beneficial for most people. At Southside Pain Specialists, we have a team of pain management doctors who will be with you every step of the way. We offer a comprehensive selection of treatment options to our patients dealing with chronic back, neck, leg, and arm pain. 

Learn more about chronic pain and begin to get relief at Southside Pain Specialists

With highly specialized training and a multitude of pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.