Chronic Pain: Part One- What is it?

Take a Sad Song and Make it Better

Chronic pain is a wide spread problem mainly among older adults. However, over the past five years chronic pain has been statistically proven to be prevalent in younger adults. I have my own definition, but academically let’s define chronic pain. The American Academy of Pain Medicine defines chronic pain as, “Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. There may have been an initial mishap — sprained back, serious infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain — arthritis, cancer, ear infection, but some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.” Yikes! This is an area inside of medicine that is not fully understood or quickly able to diagnose. Just to give you a better perspective: 76.2 million suffer from chronic pain in contrast to 11 million from cancer!

So, enough about the clinical stuff. If you are one of the 76.2 million who suffer from chronic pain, you’re probably tired of definitions, doctors, medication trial and error, and the financial strain. In fact, you’re probably sick of feeling sick! Maybe you’re tired and depressed from the strain chronic pain has put on your body.

My story with chronic pain is lengthy and would require a 10 part series by itself. So, I’ll shoot for the abbreviated version. For years I saw doctor after doctor, tried medication after medication with no return. I even started to doubt if my pain was even real. Some days, I was just fine. I could go to my college classes, be active, and even feel normal. Other days I couldn’t get out of bed, had to use the dreaded cane to walk, and missed many college classes. I don’t know how many MRI’s, Nerve Conduction Tests, X-Rays, blood tests it took for me to realize that this pain was stress related. No two doctors told me the same results, many of them telling me my pain was not related to anything physically diagnosable.

I could say that I found answers but none of them the remedy to the pain. I think the majority of what I’ve learned about chronic pain is accepting the good and bad days. Thank God for my family, my employer, and my friends for understanding this as well.

As stated earlier, chronic pain is not easily understood. Most of the time it’s triggered by an injury or an event in one’s life thus causing a mishap in the nervous system. Neuropathy, fibromyalgia, migraines, edema and fatigue are all chronic pain mysteries.

I wanted to go ahead and introduce this subject before continuing. The next part in this series of chronic pain will discuss key components coping with this every day battle.


Author: Sarah A. Miller, MA at Miller Counseling Services, PC

Reference:  American Academy of Pain Medicine. (2011). AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain. Found online March 18 2011 at

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