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What Is Chronic Pain?

Joint Pain Associated With Arthritis Is Chronic Pain


Updated July 13, 2010

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Chronic Pain Defined

Pain is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage." Chronic pain, as defined in the Merck Manual, is "pain that persists or recurs for greater than 3 months, or persists more than 1 month after resolution of an acute tissue injury, or accompanies a non-healing lesion." When we describe chronic pain as persistent or long term, it must be understood that it can last for weeks, months, or years.

Managing Chronic Pain

It is estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from persistent pain -- many of whom are among the estimated 21 million osteoarthritis sufferers in this country. Because chronic pain persists and interferes with many aspects of daily life, managing pain is essential.

Finding Adequate Relief

Inadequate relief of chronic pain is an ongoing problem. Four out of 10 people with moderate to severe pain fail to get enough relief. Often, pain medications are a large part of pain management.

The Bottom Line

Since chronic pain isn't going away, you must learn how to control it, manage it, and live with it.


Controlling Chronic Pain. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. October 2001.

International Association for Study of Pain. ASP Pain Terminology. Pain. Accessed 6/30/10.

Merck Manual Professional. Chronic Pain. Accessed June 30, 2010.

Primer of the Rheumatic Diseases. Arthritis Foundation publication. Thirteenth edition.

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