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What Causes Chronic Pain?

Curious about the causes of chronic pain? Lots of people are surprised at just how many things can cause it -- from headaches to cancer to nerve damage -- and that in some cases, there is no discernible cause. Regardless of the cause, chronic pain can have a profound effect on your quality of life, so the more you can learn about it, the better.

Understanding Chronic Pain

Pain is a universal concept -- at one point or another, we all experience it. In fact, it is one of the most common reasons people seek medical help. Pain is so common, it really doesn't require a definition -- when you hear the word, you immediately know what it means.
Several medical definitions for pain do exist, however. One of the more commonly used ones describes pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.
Pain is a natural sensation. It serves as a protective mechanism, alerting the body when something is wrong. When we feel pain, we stop and pay attention to what we're doing.
Pain lets us know when we should quit doing a potentially harmful activity, or if we need to slow down and take it easy for a while. It may trigger us to take medicine, or to go see our healthcare provider. These signals can protect the body from further damage, and give the body a chance to heal.
But for millions of people, pain persists longer than is useful. These people suffer from a type of pain known as chronic pain. Although various definitions can be found, pain is generally considered chronic if it persists for longer than three to six months.
If you experience chronic pain, you're already well aware of the multiple ways the condition affects your life. Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability and of medical costs. It may affect you to the point where it's difficult to work or maintain a job.
It can also interfere with your energy, mood, sleep, and ability to do routine daily activities, such as dressing yourself or eating. For many people, chronic pain not only affects them personally, but also affects their personal relationships.
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