Chronic Pain Syndromes


The International Association for the study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with the actual or potential tissue damage”.

The word ‘pain’ comes from the Latin ‘poena’ meaning a fine or a penalty.

Classification of pain

•Acute pain is defined as lasting between 0-6 weeks

*Subacute pain is defined as lasting between 6-12 weeks

• Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts beyond 12 weeks

Transition of pain from an acute state into a chronic state

Risk factors that cause acute pain to become chronic include.

• Pain then more pain, severe pain and multiple sites of pain around the body

• Depression, anxiety, over analysing how your body feels, social introversion, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

• Poor interaction with family, friends and fellow workers, feelings of loss of control, hopelessness and helplessness

• Memories and emotions relating to past experiences of pain, other peoples attitudes to your pain, adverse and traumatic life events

• Lack of sleep

Biopsychosocial model

The diagrams show how pain is influenced by our own thoughts and feelings as well as other factors. These include emotions, how we deal with and tolerate pain and what influences our social lives and broader views of pain. Patients commonly experience a view amongst society that because you can’t see pain people may question whether it really exists. Patients are told it’s all in their head and they are stressed or depressed. Alternatively, some people have experienced pain in a certain part of their body for so long that they normalise their pain and assume they have to just live with it.

Function of the nervous sytem

• The nervous system obtains sensory information from the environment

•Keeps the body in equilibrium

•The brain decides how it will react to internal and external stimulus

•Memories, association, emotion, cognition and prediction

•Pain perception




Biopsychosocial model
Detailed biopsychosocial model

Useful links on how we perceive pain and why it can become chronic

Click here for a really interesting film on Chronic Pain – it’s only 5.00 minutes long.

Click here for a film that gives a more in depth understanding of pain and why pain can become chronic or persistent.