Chronic Pain Symptoms

Chronic pain is commonly defined as any pain that lasts longer than six months. But beyond that, there are many different possible symptoms a chronic pain sufferer could experience, such as sharp versus dull aching pain; localized versus defuse or radiating pain; weakness, numbness, tingling; or any number of other sensations.

Often these differences can be readily traced to the underlying cause of the pain. Arthritis patients, for instance, would experience dull aching pain in the affected joints, while people with shingles might report itching burning sensations on specific patches of skin and sharp shooting pain along the nerve fibers that run to that area. There may be an array of secondary symptoms too, including difficulties in sleeping, low energy and exhaustion, and depression.

Often the pain is not at a constant, unchanging level of intensity, but varies in response to a variety of situations. People with chronic pain frequently report having "good days" and "bad days" — days during which the pain may be absent entirely or occurring at a lower level than the norm, and days on which the pain is much worse and much harder to manage.

Sometimes these variations occur because of changes in the underlying condition - for instance, a cancer patient experiencing either an improvement or a setback in the treatment of his or her disease. Sometimes patients have inadvertently overstressed themselves physically, as when an arthritis patient engages in some physical exertion beyond what his or her affected joints can handle without becoming extra-inflamed.

Emotional and psychological factors can also affect the level of pain experienced; positive experiences such as humor, joy, and love can sometimes lessen the pain feelings, while upsetting or frustrating situations can make pain feel much worse.