Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
What is Chronic Pain?
What is Chronic Pain?
While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to
possible injury and the need to take care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain
persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years.
There may have been an initial mishap -- sprained back, serious infection, or there may be
an ongoing cause of pain -- arthritis, cancer, ear infection, but some people suffer chronic
pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage. Many chronic pain
conditions affect older adults. Common chronic pain complaints include headache, low
back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to the
peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself), psychogenic pain (pain not due to
past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage inside or outside the nervous system).
Is there any treatment?
Medications, acupuncture, local electrical stimulation, and brain stimulation, as well as
surgery, are some treatments for chronic pain. Some physicians use placebos, which in
some cases has resulted in a lessening or elimination of pain. Psychotherapy, relaxation and
medication therapies, biofeedback, and behavior modification may also be employed to treat
What is the prognosis?
Many people with chronic pain can be helped if they understand all the causes of pain and
the many and varied steps that can be taken to undo what chronic pain has done. Scientists
believe that advances in neuroscience will lead to more and better treatments for chronic
pain in the years to come.
What research is being done?
Clinical investigators have tested chronic pain patients and found that they often have
lower-than-normal levels of endorphins in their spinal fluid. Investigations of acupuncture
include wiring the needles to stimulate nerve endings electrically (electroacupuncture),
which some researchers believe activates endorphin systems. Other experiments with
acupuncture have shown that there are higher levels of endorphins in cerebrospinal fluid
following acupuncture. Investigators are studying the effect of stress on the experience of
chronic pain. Chemists are synthesizing new analgesics and discovering painkilling virtues in
drugs not normally prescribed for pain.
Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Room 5B-55
Bethesda, MD 20892
American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA 95677-0850
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
American Council for Headache Education
19 Mantua Road
Mt. Royal, NJ 08061
Tel: 856-423-0258 800-255-ACHE (255-2243)
National Headache Foundation
820 N. Orleans
Chicago, IL 60610-3132
Tel: 312-274-2650 888-NHF-5552 (643-5552)
National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain
P.O. Box 70045
Houston, TX 77270
Mayday Fund [For Pain Research]
136 West 21st Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10011
American Pain Foundation
201 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-4111
Tel: 888-615-PAIN (7246)
1330 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
Tel: 800-568-4045 404-872-7100 404-965-7888
Publicaciones en Español
Dolor: Esperanza en la Investigación
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not
necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or
care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who
has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.
RSD(S)-CRPS Advisory thanks NINDS and the NIH for enabling me to teach, inform and
educate others by the privilage of use.