Chronic Pain, Adult

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    Chronic Pain, Adult

    Chronic Pain, Adult

    Chronic pain is a type of pain that lasts or keeps coming back for at least 3–6 months. You may have headaches, pain in the abdomen, or pain in other areas of the body. Chronic pain may be related to an illness, injury, or a health condition. Sometimes, the cause of chronic pain is not known.

    Chronic pain can make it hard for you to do daily activities. If it is not treated, chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression. Treatment depends on the cause of your pain and how severe it is. You may need to work with a pain specialist to come up with a treatment plan. Many people benefit from two or more types of treatment to control their pain.

    Follow these instructions at home:

    Treatment plan

    A person doing a yoga stretch.

    Follow your treatment plan as told by your health care provider. This may include:
    • Gentle, regular exercise.
    • Eating a healthy diet that includes foods such as vegetables, fruits, fish, and lean meats.
    • Mental health therapy (cognitive or behavioral therapy) that changes the way you think or act in response to the pain. This may help improve how you feel.
    • Doing physical therapy exercises to improve movement and strength.
    • Meditation, yoga, acupuncture, or massage therapy.
    • Using the oils from plants in your environment or on your skin (aromatherapy).

    Other treatments may include:
    • Over-the-counter or prescription medicines.
    • Color, light, or sound therapy.
    • Local electrical stimulation. The electrical pulses help to relieve pain by temporarily stopping the nerve impulses that cause you to feel pain.
    • Injections. These deliver numbing or pain-relieving medicines into the spine or the area of pain.


    • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
    • Ask your health care provider if the medicine prescribed to you:
      • Requires you to avoid driving or using machinery.
      • Can cause constipation. You may need to take these actions to prevent or treat constipation:
        • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.
        • Take over-the-counter or prescription medicines.
        • Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
        • Limit foods that are high in fat and processed sugars, such as fried or sweet foods.


    A person using a pen to write in a notebook.
    • Ask your health care provider whether you should keep a pain diary. Your health care provider will tell you what information to write in the diary. This may include:
      • When you have pain.
      • What the pain feels like.
      • How medicines and other behaviors or treatments help to reduce the pain.
    • Consider talking with a mental health care provider about how to help manage chronic pain.
    • Consider joining a chronic pain support group.
    • Try to control or lower your stress levels. Talk with your health care provider about ways to do this.

    General instructions

    • Learn as much as you can about how to manage your chronic pain. Ask your health care provider if an intensive pain rehabilitation program or a chronic pain specialist would be helpful.
    • Check your pain level as told by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider if you should use a pain scale.

    Contact a health care provider if:

    • Your pain is not controlled with treatment.
    • You have new pain.
    • You have side effects from pain medicine.
    • You feel weak or you have trouble doing your normal activities.
    • You have trouble sleeping or you develop confusion.
    • You lose feeling or have numbness in your body.
    • You lose control of your bowels or bladder.

    Get help right away if:

    • Your pain suddenly gets much worse.
    • You develop chest pain.
    • You have trouble breathing or shortness of breath.
    • You faint, or another person sees you faint.

    These symptoms may be an emergency. Get help right away. Call 911.
    • Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away.
    • Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

    Also, get help right away if:
    • You have thoughts about hurting yourself or others.

    Take one of these steps if you feel like you may hurt yourself or others, or have thoughts about taking your own life:
    • Go to your nearest emergency room.
    • Call 911.
    • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988. This is open 24 hours a day.
    • Text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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