Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyChronicPainTeam

Causes of Chronic Pain

Posted on August 14, 2018

Article written by
Kelly Crumrin

If two people sustain the same type of injury or undergo the same surgery, one may heal normally, while the other continues to feel pain for months or years. In other people, chronic pain develops independently of any detectable damage to the body. Why do some people develop chronic pain, while others do not? Researchers have done many studies looking for the answer to this question.

Risk factors for chronic pain

It is important to note that while science is good at finding correlations, or apparent relationships, between factors and health conditions, correlation does not prove that the risk factor causes the health condition. Many risk factors for chronic pain have been identified and are being studied, but none have been pinpointed as the cause of chronic pain.

The relationship between acute pain and chronic pain

Some scientists who study pain theorize that in some cases of injury, surgery, or shingles (herpes zoster) outbreak, the acute pain felt at the time of the event changes the way the brain and nerves function, sensitizing the nervous system to keep relaying pain messages and causing it to lose the ability to modulate pain sensations. People with higher levels of acute pain are more likely to develop chronic pain. Scientists theorize that rapid and effective management of acute pain may result in fewer people developing chronic pain.

Psychological factors

Psychological response to pain seems to play a role in how pain is felt. People who have more anxiety, distress, and fear related to acute pain seem to have a higher likelihood of developing chronic pain. It is theorized that the chemicals the body releases in response to these emotions increase pain sensitivity.

Genetic factors

There is not a "chronic pain gene," but researchers have identified several genes that are thought to play a role in how pain is felt. For instance, sensitivity to pain and ability to tolerate pain may be inherited. Some studies suggest that chronic pain conditions may run in families. Certainly, family medical history does raise the risk for some painful health conditions such as endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and spondylitis.

Sex and gender factors

Women are more likely to develop chronic pain than men. Studies show that women tend to have a lower pain threshold and a lower ability to tolerate pain than men. Women seek treatment for chronic pain at a higher rate than men. Research is underway to determine whether estrogen, the female sex hormone, influences how pain is felt in women.

Risk factors for developing chronic pain include:

  • Higher levels of acute pain before treatment
  • Higher levels of anxiety, depression, and distress
  • Having multiple chronic conditions
  • History of abuse or violence
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Being female
  • Being younger
  • Being unmarried
  • Being obese

Resources

External resources

Kelly leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

A MyChronicPainTeam Member said:

Ask your Questions! Find more info, feel more at ease!

posted 10 days ago

hug (1)

Recent articles

Coronavirus
Article written by Kelly Crumrin Those of us living with pre-existing conditions such as chronic...

Canceling Is Kindness: Keeping Safe From COVID-19 With Chronic Pain

Article written by Kelly Crumrin Those of us living with pre-existing conditions such as chronic...
Setting intentions for 2020 with chronic pain
Eat healthier. Exercise more. Learn a new skill. Pay off a credit card. Many of us have made...

Setting Intentions for 2020 With Chronic Pain

Eat healthier. Exercise more. Learn a new skill. Pay off a credit card. Many of us have made...
Msl af mychronicpainteam susie
I believe that I was born with chronic pain. I was born very pigeon-toed and had wood braces in...

Member Spotlight: What It’s Like to Live With Chronic Pain

I believe that I was born with chronic pain. I was born very pigeon-toed and had wood braces in...
Practicing gratitude with chronic pain
This time of the year can be overwhelming with expectations around the holidays, and living with...

Practicing Gratitude With Chronic Pain

This time of the year can be overwhelming with expectations around the holidays, and living with...
How to enjoy the holidays despite chronic pain
Living with chronic pain may change your holidays, but you can still have enjoyable and...

How to Enjoy the Holidays Despite Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain may change your holidays, but you can still have enjoyable and...
Mht af justdiagnosed olderwoman
We all respond differently to information about our health. After learning what condition is...

Your Chronic Pain Has Finally Been Diagnosed. Now What?

We all respond differently to information about our health. After learning what condition is...
How good boundaries make life with ph easier
There is an old saying: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Having healthy boundaries in...

How Good Boundaries Make Life With Chronic Pain Easier

There is an old saying: “Good fences make good neighbors.” Having healthy boundaries in...
Mht af saying thinking 4
Living with chronic pain can mean having limited energy, time, and bandwidth. You may find...

Tap Into the Power of Directness: Use "I"

Living with chronic pain can mean having limited energy, time, and bandwidth. You may find...
Mht takingcareofmyself fb v2
Keeping promises to yourself is a way to focus on self-nurture. This could mean making a...

Who's the One Person You Should Always Keep Your Promise To?

Keeping promises to yourself is a way to focus on self-nurture. This could mean making a...
Msl af mychronicpainteam christina
When I first began to develop symptoms of my disease, they were very similar to the symptoms of...

Fighting For Your Quality of Life

When I first began to develop symptoms of my disease, they were very similar to the symptoms of...
MyChronicPainTeam My chronic pain Team

Get the latest articles about chronic pain sent to your inbox.

Not now, thanks

Privacy policy
MyChronicPainTeam My chronic pain Team

Thank you for signing up.

close