Why does pain linger in some people but not others?
Genetics and brain-based biological factors are the latest frontier of research on chronic pain, along with personality traits, coping strategies and life experiences. The question is a riddle researchers have been trying to solve for decades.
Better identifying which injuries may lead to chronic pain, defined as lasting beyond normal healing for at least three months, is hugely important for the 100 million Americans who suffer from it. Lower-back pain is the most common type, with nearly one-third of U.S. adults reporting experienced it within the previous three months.
Common sources of chronic pain:
- Migraine and other serious headaches
- Arthritis and other joint pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Trauma or postsurgical pain
- Lower-back pain
- Sickle-cell disease
- Heart disease (angina)
Often the initial cause of pain is never identified. But for pain experts the bigger mystery is why pain lingers in some patients, and what combination of biological, psychological and social factors contribute to it.
A new study aims to figure out how the brains of those who suffer from chronic pain differ from those who only experience temporary pain after a back injury. Such findings may be helpful in distinguishing those who need additional treatment from those whose pain would subside on its own. The work may also help find a way to prevent the pain from lingering.
Beyond the brain, genetics, personality, emotional state and coping style have been tied to severity of pain and chronic pain. Some evidence suggests that those who seek less risk and are more fearful of pain are more likely to experience pain more strongly.
Research on a "pain personality" hasn't led to a consensus from researchers so far. And even when variables like depression are linked to chronic-pain sufferers on the whole, it is still incredibly difficult to predict whether any individual is a likely chronic-pain candidate.
For a pain treatment plan to treat your chronic pain, contact the Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.
Excerpts - WSJ