what causes chronic pain syndrome

What Causes Chronic Pain Syndrome?

Discover what causes chronic pain syndrome, how to identify the signs, and where to find effective treatment.

Table of Contents

What Is Chronic Pain Syndrome?

Chronic pain syndrome is a condition marked by persistent or recurrent pain that lasts at least three to six months and causes physical and/or psychological changes.

How Common Is Chronic Pain Syndrome?

Chronic pain syndrome affects around 20.4% of adults in the U.S., with 8% having high-impact chronic pain.1

Chronic Pain Syndrome vs. Fibromyalgia

There is a significant overlap between chronic pain syndrome and fibromyalgia, with both conditions involving long-term pain resulting in adverse physical and psychological effects. However, chronic pain syndrome is typically activated by an illness or injury, while fibromyalgia occurs without a definitive reason.

Additionally, fibromyalgia is less prevalent than chronic pain, with only 2% of U.S. adults diagnosed.2

Chronic Pain Conditions

Chronic pain can occur as various conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder

Risk Factors for Chronic Pain Syndrome

There are many different risk factors for chronic pain syndrome, including:

  • Age, prevalence increases with age
  • Gender, women are more likely to develop this condition than men
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Stress

What Causes Chronic Pain Syndrome?

There are a variety of reasons chronic pain syndrome can occur. These will be detailed below.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term that refers to the inflammation of one or more joints. There are more than one hundred types of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This condition affects over 58.5 million adults in the U.S.3

Arthritis can cause chronic pain syndrome by damaging the cartilage that cushions the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and mental distress. It is unclear what causes fibromyalgia; however, some research loosely indicates that the condition can result from older age, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctors. It can be caused by muscle strain, herniated discs, and degenerative disc disease. Back pain can lead to chronic pain disease if it lasts for more than three months and has resulted in physical and/or psychological changes.

Headaches

There are many types of headaches, including tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches, which can be caused by various factors, such as stress, muscle tension, and dehydration. Headache disorders are some of the most prevalent nervous system disorders, with about 50% of the population worldwide experiencing symptoms.4

Chronic pain syndrome can result from headaches if they are frequent and have resulted in physical and/or psychological changes.

Cancer

Cancer can cause chronic pain syndrome by damaging the nerves, bones, and muscles. Cancer-related pain can develop from cancer itself or from the treatments used to treat cancer, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Surgical Trauma

Chronic pain syndrome can be caused by surgical trauma, such as nerve or tissue damage. Several complications can arise from surgery-related chronic pain, so it’s essential to look out for any adverse symptoms. 

Repetitive Stress Injuries

Repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, can cause chronic pain disorder by damaging the nerves, muscles, and tissues. Overuse of the affected area is the common cause of repetitive stress injuries.

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Pain Syndrome

The signs and symptoms of chronic pain syndrome can be physical, emotional, psychological, and social.

Physical Signs of Chronic Pain Syndrome

Chronic pain syndrome can cause many different physical signs and symptoms that range from mild to severe, such as:

  • Pain that lasts for more than three months
  • Pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter or prescription medications
  • Pain that interferes with work, sleep, and other activities
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

Emotional Signs of Chronic Pain Syndrome

There are various emotional signs and symptoms that can occur from this disorder, such as:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep problems

Psychological Signs of Chronic Pain Syndrome

The psychological signs and symptoms of chronic pain syndrome may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Social Results of Chronic Pain Syndrome

In some cases, chronic pain disorder can result in social issues, such as:

Chronic Pain Syndrome Diagnosis

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of chronic pain syndrome can help indicate when a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is needed. The process of diagnosing this condition includes:

  • Medical History: Doctors can utilize medical history to help determine the possible cause of chronic pain, as the condition usually develops from a pre-existing illness or injury. In addition, they will ask about the pain, including when it started, how long it lasts, what it feels like, and what makes it worse or better, as well as other symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep problems, and mood changes.
  • Imaging Tests: Imaging tests that are commonly used to diagnose chronic pain syndrome can include computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-rays, and/or lab tests.

Treatment for Chronic Pain Syndrome

Treatment for chronic pain syndrome often includes a combination of medication, physical therapy, and psychological counseling.

what causes chronic pain syndrome

Can Chronic Pain Be Managed?

While chronic pain can be managed, it often cannot be cured. Fortunately, the right chronic pain therapy can effectively alleviate the distressing symptoms.

How to Cope With Chronic Pain Syndrome

The following includes tips on how to cope with chronic pain:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid stress
  • Take pain medications as prescribed
  • See a doctor or pain specialist regularly
  • Participate in a support group

Chronic Pain Syndrome Treatment Options

Various treatment options are available for chronic pain syndrome, such as:

  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and prescription pain medication, such as opioids or antidepressants, are among the most common types of medicines for chronic pain.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles and joints and massage, heat, and cold therapy can help reduce pain.
  • Psychological/Behavior Therapy: Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and biofeedback aim to teach patients how to cope with the adverse effects of chronic pain syndrome and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Counseling: Individual counseling, family counseling, and group therapy can help patients learn how to manage the effects of chronic pain syndrome in a positive and healthy way.
  • Nerve Blocks: Nerve blocks are a local anesthetic that is injected into the nerves that are causing pain.
  • Alternative Therapy: Alternative therapy that may help with chronic pain include acupuncture, chiropractic care, and hypnosis.

Find Help for Chronic Pain Syndrome at J. Flowers Health Institute

If you are dealing with chronic pain, our medical staff at J. Flowers Health Institute can help you find the treatment you need to manage your symptoms. We offer a variety of services that we tailor to your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.