Common Chronic Pain Questions

Reviewed by Steven Richeimer, MD

When does pain become "chronic"?
The term chronic pain is generally used to describe pain that has lasted for more than six months. It's also used to describe pain that persists even after the original injury has healed.
What causes chronic pain?
It isn't always clear what causes chronic pain. There are several possibilities:

Are there different types of chronic pain?
Yes, there are different types of chronic pain. It can be:

Why is my doctor sending me to a psychologist if it's my body that's in pain?
Chronic pain does have an emotional component. If your doctor refers you to a psychologist, it means that he or she is well-aware of the emotional effects chronic pain can have. The psychologist can help you deal with any depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders often associated with chronic pain. The psychologist can also teach you to use various psychological "tools," such as relaxation techniques, to help you perceive your pain as less intense. The main goal is to help you live your life fully, despite the pain.

Am I going to end up on a lot of drugs and medications for my chronic pain?
Drugs and medications are one treatment option available to treat chronic pain. Your doctor will work with you to figure out the right medication—or combination of medications—to control your pain. You should communicate clearly with your doctor what works and what doesn't.

If you're scared that you're going to end up on a lot of medications (or that you'll become addicted to medications), talk to your doctor about that concern. It's an important point to bring up, and your doctor can walk you through possible side effects, how long you'll be on a medication, your dosage level, etc.

What else can I try besides drugs and medications to control or relieve my pain?
To control or relieve chronic pain, you can also try:

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Symptoms of Chronic Pain