In very basic terms chronic pain is pain that lasts for more than about three to six months. It is considered chronic pain if it lasts that long no matter whether it is continually present during that time or whether it comes and goes across the six months. In the beginning chronic pain often starts off from the same causes as the type of pain that goes away after a short while. However, some people go on to develop chronic pain. We now understand that once pain has been around for more than three to six months very real changes occur in your body. These changes, such as changes in posture, strength, flexibility, weight, endurance, and changes in your nervous system that transmits pain messages, then increase the whole problem of chronic pain.
As anyone with chronic pain will attest, the physical side of chronic pain is only part of the problem. Pain impacts on a person's ability to work; perform everyday activities such as washing, dressing, cleaning and cooking; socialise, have sex, and spend time with family and friends. In fact it can impact on any and every part of a person's life. This then leads to more problems, such as financial pressures, relationship problems, unemployment and so on. The problems associated with having chronic pain, together with the sometimes overwhelming experience of the pain itself, can also result in a range of problems such as depression, insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks. These difficulties then further add to the overall weight of chronic pain.
The general aims of the Pain Centre at RPAH are to assess the patient to rule out any sinister conditions that may have been overlooked; to recommend any medical interventions that may help; to educate the patient on what chronic pain is; to address any psychological issues that arise when suffering with chronic pain; and to teach patients evidence-based pain management strategies.