What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that continues beyond the expected period of healing for an illness or injury. In chronic pain, signals of pain remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years.

What are the effects of chronic pain?

Chronic pain can lead to a chronic stress reaction that causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. This stress reaction can lead to harmful health effects, such as a reduced ability to fight off illnesses and diseases. It also can increase the risk for conditions such as heart disease.

Chronic pain’s physical effects include:

  • Tense muscles
  • Limited ability to move about
  • Lack of energy, and
  • Changes in appetite

The emotional effects include:

  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Anxiety, and
  • Fear of re-injury

These fears may slow down a person’s ability to return to his or her everyday or leisure activities.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/03/2017.


  • NIH Medline Plus. Chronic Pain: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment Accessed 4/5/2017.
  • Arthritis Foundation. Understanding Chronic Pain Accessed 4/5/2017.
  • American Osteopathic Association. Pain, Pain Go Away Accessed 4/5/2017.
  • Rathmell JP, Fields, HL. Chapter 11. Pain: Pathophysiology and Management. In: Longo DL, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Jameson JL, Loscalzo J, eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2012.

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