Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

The truth is that humans cannot survive without pain.
Pain allows people to take action and it is the body’s warning system when you are injured or sick. Acute pain is this reaction to a harmful stimulus that is generally simple to treat, and you can heal from it. This pain is short-term and usually disappears when the injury has healed.

Chronic pain is a condition when you experience pain lasting generally beyond 3-6 months after the injury or illness occurred.

Chronic pain can result from injury, illness, trauma, surgery or other health conditions; in some cases, there is no clear physical origin. The pain can be mild to severe and is experienced most days of the week.  There is no one-size fits all; it can occur anywhere in the body or in multiple sites.

This is a common condition that affects 1 in 5 Australians aged 45 and over. Living with daily chronic pain can interfere with your everyday life causing emotional and physical stress by disrupting your body’s chemical balance.

It affects a person’s capacity to work, mental health and well-being as well as relationships.

What causes pain?

In simple terms, pain is caused by a specific type of electrical impulse sent up the main part of the nerve towards the spinal cord and brain. An important fact to note is that everyone experiences pain differently. Your brain has the biggest bunch of cells in your body, which makes it important when understanding pain.


There is a myth about persistent pain equaling ongoing damage. A person’s nervous system may be damaged from a previous injury, resulting in the body responding to normal messages such as movement, cold and touch as if they are dangerous stimuli.

• Unrelieved chronic pain can increase the risk of suicide.
• It contributes to poor sleep, depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
• A person is four times more likely to have depression and anxiety with chronic pain.
• Major depression is the most common mental health condition along with chronic pain.

Behavioural risk factors

• Low levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviors.
• Obesity is a risk factor for chronic pain.
• Smokers are more likely to experience self-reported chronic pain.


Practical tips

• Increase general activity
Gradually increasing your activity levels can reverse the negative cycle of inactivity pain.
• Working toward personal goals
Start focusing on personal goals instead of on how to “fix” the pain.
• Have support around you. The aim is to have some social contact every day to have something to look forward to.  
• Avoid “self-medicating” to manage the pain. This may distract you in the short-term but does not fix the underlying problems.
• Manage your mental health
Looking after your general health and well-being: eating well, getting adequate rest, and regular exercise (within the limits of your pain).
• Learn to think differently about your pain. The way you think about your pain can change the way you feel and act. Remind yourself that you are not powerless or a victim of your pain.

Ways to help:

• Talk therapy or psychological counselling, can be effective in treating both conditions.
• Stress-reduction techniques, physical activity, exercise, meditation, and journaling. Learning coping skills and other strategies also may help.
• Pain rehab programs typically provide a team approach to treatment.
• Medications may relieve both pain and depression because of shared chemical messages in the brain.

Pain Statistics

• 40% of early retirement in Australia is due to chronic pain.
• People with chronic pain are 5 times as likely as those without pain to be limited a lot in daily activities. Productivity losses associated with chronic pain were estimated in 2020 at $49.74 Billon.
• 11.9 days of reduced productivity associated with chronic pain in a six-month period, equating to 9.9% of potential work time.
• 3. 4 million Australians lived with chronic pain in 2018. This is set to rise to 5. 23 million by 2050.
• 68% of people with chronic pain are of working age.

• Rates of depression are four times higher among people with chronic pain than people without pain.
• Chronic pain is reported by 18.6% of Australian adults. It occurs more commonly in women and those who are poorly educated, unemployed, older or disabled.
• 30-40% of people with a diagnosed mental health condition also present for treatment for chronic pain.



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