Persistent (Chronic) Pain

Many people think that pain goes away when an injury or surgery heals. For a large number of people this is the case. However for one in five Australians the pain does not go away. This is called persistent (chronic) pain because it persists beyond the normal healing time of about three months.

The impact of persistent pain can be severe & disabling interfering with daily functions. The pain is felt physically but also impacts personally & socially. Pain can be present without a diagnosis or occur as a result of an injury or surgery. Some of the medical conditions that may lead to persistent pain are:

  • musculoskeletal conditions eg back & neck pain or osteoarthritis
  • pain associated with stroke
  • postherpetic neuralgia & diabetic neuropathy
  • complex regional pain syndrome
  • polymyalgia
  • amputation
  • fibromyalgia
  • spinal cord injury
  • cancer
  • headaches & migraine

Historically, pain has been considered a symptom of an underlying condition but medical science now knows that ongoing pain alters nerve pathways so that the nervous system becomes overactive. Normal mechanisms that block or reduce pain stop working so that persistent pain can become a disease in its own right.

How to seek Treatment

If you are suffering with persistent pain (also known as chronic pain) you should first seek advice from a general practitioner. Your regular GP is the best person to see as they will know about your previous medical history and the contribution or interaction of other medical conditions. If you do not have a regular GP there will be many competent practitioners in your neighbourhood to choose from. Ask your family and friends to recommend a GP with the age, gender, experience and personality which will make you most comfortable – you may need to see him or her on a regular basis, at least initially. Often treatment cannot ‘cure’ the persistent pain problem, but with an integrated and holistic approach you can receive help to manage the pain better and regain your life.

Useful Resources:

Hunter Integrated Pain Service:

Australian Pain Management Association:

Butler, D. S. and Moseley, G. L. (2003) Explain Pain, Noigroup Publications, Adelaide

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