Chronic pain is physiologically distinct from long-lasting acute pain. In some cases, however, poorly managed acute pain can develop into a chronic pain condition.
In addition to the direct physical suffering that patients experience, the biopsychosocial nature of chronic pain affects their social lives, ability to work, and psychological well-being. The resulting economic burden of chronic pain is estimated to cost the United States over half a trillion dollars annually—more than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.
In this three-part series, doctors at the Pain Management Center of Stanford University examine the impact of chronic pain on quality of life, the feedback loops that can convert acute to chronic pain, and rational strategies for the management of chronic pain as a biopsychosocial condition. The effectiveness of pain psychology is considered, as are different classes of analgesics.