Acute, temporary pain has a purpose. It can warn us of health problems that need attention or tell us if we are using our body the wrong way. However, chronic pain persists and doesn’t serve a good purpose. It could be from an old injury, illness, infection or chronic condition such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. Nerve damage to specific nerves or to the nervous system itself can also cause chronic pain.

man in pain holding neck

Common locations of chronic pain include:

  • Back and neck. Chronic pain in the back and neck can be due to conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated (ruptured disk) or degenerative disk disease.
  • Head. Migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches may be the cause of head pain.
  • Face. Occipital neuralgia, atypical facial pain, trigeminal neuralgia or a complication of shingles can all cause face pain.
  • Arms and hands. Chronic pain in the arms and hands can be caused by cervical radiculopathy, ulnar nerve neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome or peripheral neuropathies.
  • Chest and torso. Surgery, chronic angina or a complication of shingles can cause chest and torso pain.
  • Abdomen. Pain in the stomach can be caused by chronic pancreatitis, visceral pain or post-surgery pain.

How is chronic pain treated?

Any time you have pain that can’t be explained, you should tell your doctor. Any kind of pain can be a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

When pain becomes chronic and you can’t find lasting relief, you’re at higher risk for depression. You may not rest well, and you may have a hard time focusing on the things you need to do or enjoy doing.

Treatment depend on the type and location of the pain, and other factors such as your age, general health and personal preferences. Some common treatments include medication, pain pumps, spinal cord stimulators, nerve blocks, surgery or physical therapy.