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A closer look at chronic pain

One of the most common reasons people go to the doctor is for pain. And it’s not just pain from being hurt or sick. Millions of Americans live with chronic pain—persistent, ongoing pain that can make it harder for them to do everyday activities.

Is it acute pain or chronic pain?
What you experience when you get hurt is known as acute pain. It’s like an alarm to tell your body that something is wrong. For example: if you touch a hot stove, your brain sends a signal to your hand that the burner is hot, so you’ll stop touching it.

With the right treatment, acute pain should go away when your body has healed. Over time, it can turn into chronic pain, however, when exactly that happens is still up for debate. Some doctors say three months while others say pain that lasts longer than six months to a year despite treatment is chronic pain. 

Chronic pain can also develop on its own. This is usually due to an illness, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, multiple sclerosis or cancer.

What makes chronic pain different?
Chronic pain might not even feel like ‘pain.’ Instead, it might feel like a shooting, burning, prickly, stabbing, dull, achy, throbbing or tender sensation. It also commonly comes in the form of back, pelvic or joint pain. Those local pain issues can eventually affect other parts of your life and may cause:

• Fatigue
• Sleeplessness
• Decreased appetite
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Impaired mental function
• Poor coordination

What’s more, specific factors or conditions may trigger chronic pain. Irritable bowel syndrome, for example, may only show symptoms after you eat certain foods. These pain triggers can tell a lot about what’s going on in your body, so make sure to tell your doctor if you experience any. 

Managing chronic pain
Managing pain is an important part of living with a chronic condition. Treatment can vary—anything from prescription medication to physical therapy or a combination of both. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your pain. Being specific about exactly where you hurt and any triggers you have might help when it comes to diagnosing the pain and understanding the best way to treat it.

Members of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan get access to pain management resources through WebMD®. These can provide a tailored resource for those living with chronic pain. Get the latest articles on pain management, key resources, testimonials from others like you and guidance on finding the right care.

This information is not meant to substitute the advice of your doctor or any other healthcare professional You should speak to your doctor regarding any specific health concerns.