Pain is one of the body’s defence mechanisms – it alerts us that something is wrong and that we need to protect ourselves. However, in persistent or chronic pain, this defence mechanism is not working the way it should.
Persistent pain (also known as ‘chronic’ or ‘long-term’ pain) is pain lasting more than 6 months.
When most people think of what pain is, they think of ACUTE pain. However, persistent pain is different to acute pain:
- Is short term (less than 6 months).
- Is usually the result of injury (although injuries don’t always produce pain!)
- Is useful – it helps us to protect ourselves from further damage & allows time for healing.
- Is long-term (more than 6 months).
- Is usually constant.
- Can start after an injury, but can also come ‘out of the blue’ & not be linked to damage to the body.
- Is “pain which has out-lived its usefulness” – persistent pain is not a sign of damage, and so is not protective.
- Is a common problem – in a recent study, 20% of people in Europe were shown to have moderate to severe persistent pain.