What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is pain that persists beyond 3 months. This type of pain is very different than acute pain, pain that exists 3 months or less. Acute pain is well-treated with standard, passive, medical treatments, such as medication, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery. Chronic pain, on the other hand, has been shown to be poorly treated by such treatment approaches, does not go away, and often does not improve despite many treatment efforts.
What is often not known is that most physicians and other healthcare providers are well trained in acute pain, but not in chronic pain. This is a problem because, as a result, chronic pain is treated as if it is acute pain; meaning, ineffective treatments, that work for acute pain, such as rest, heat, ice, ultrasound, and medications, to name several, are used for chronic pain, which is a very different problem than acute pain. These passive treatments actually make chronic pain worse in the long-run.
Chronic pain does not mean that a recent injury has occurred. Pain is now the problem. Chronic pain is very real; however, is now known to be, in most cases, a nervous system problem. A great deal of neuroscience research shows that when we focus on the treatment of chronic pain from a nervous system perspective, and use active versus passive treatments, we get much better results. This is why calming the nervous system through treating emotional pain, utilizing relaxation training, providing education about chronic pain, and giving patients tools to improve their pain and stress, versus being in a helpless position of being on “the medical merry-go-round,” is so essential to successful chronic pain treatment.