Chronic Pain Health Center

Chronic pain is persistent and long-lasting pain that can last weeks, months and even years. Pain signals continue to fire in the nervous system for prolonged periods of time. Chronic pain is different than acute pain, which is a normal sensation triggered to alert you to a possible injury. In people with chronic pain, there may have been an initial traumatic injury or chronic illness. However, some individuals have chronic pain without a past injury or condition.

Chronic pain often affects older adults, and common chronic pain complaints include headache, low back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain and psychogenic pain. Sometimes, chronic pain is brought on by conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), interstitial cystitis, temporomandibular joint dysfunction and vulvodynia.

In one national survey, 26 percent of adults — around 76.5 million Americans — reported experiencing pain that lasted more than 24 hours. Of those reporting pain, 42 percent said it lasted more than a year. Pain from arthritis, back problems, musculoskeletal conditions and headache costs US businesses more than $61 billion a year in lost worker productivity.

Review Date: 
August 20, 2012
Last Updated:
June 2, 2014