Understanding Pain

What is Chronic Pain?

Watch this short video to learn about the difference between acute and chronic pain.

Key Points:
  • Humans have evolved to feel acute pain as a form of protection.
  • Acute pain is what you feel when you burn your hand or break a bone; it needs time for healing and rehabilitation.
  • Chronic pain is not caused by tissue damage or a break, and cannot be found by most medical investigations like blood tests or x-rays.
  • Chronic pain is not just in your mind; it is very real.
  • In chronic pain, your super sensitive nervous system sends pain signals to your brain, even though blood tests and x-rays are normal.
  • There are many things you can do to manage your pain. Learning about how pain works it is a really good first step.

Why does Chronic Pain Happen?

If you've got chronic pain, it’s natural to wonder, “Why did this happen to me?” Although the answers are not always clear, there are some risk factors that make it more likely that you will develop chronic pain.

Risk factors for chronic pain include:
  • A family history of chronic pain
  • Female gender
  • Physical stress
  • Emotional stress
  • Loss of movement

Brain & Nervous System Change

Neuroplasticity is the scientific name for our brain and nervous system’s amazing ability to change and adapt.

Key Points:
  • Neuroplasticity happens when your brain and nervous system change by making new neural connections.
  • Neuroplastic change is caused by repetitive practiced activities.
  • In good neuroplastic change, if you practice a new skill, new neural connections in your brain will form, and you’ll get better at whatever skill you practice.
  • Chronic pain happens when your nerves become super sensitized. They send pain signals over and over again to the brain, even when there’s no tissue damage that tells them to do it.
  • It’s easier when you’re young to change pathways to the brain to override and reverse pain signals.

What Can I Do About My Pain?

This module will outline some of the things you can do to manage your pain on your own, or with your healthcare providers.

Key Points:
  • It can be helpful to learn about the science of chronic pain.
  • How you feel pain is affected by your body, attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, and your social environment.
  • Take an active role in managing your health.
  • Don’t wait for a diagnosis before you start to manage your pain.