Persistent pain is not due to local tissue damage or injury. It can be described as pain that persists after an injury has healed or an illness has resolved.

Persistent pain is pain that has lasted more than 3 months, which is the usual recovery period after an injury or illness. Persistant pain is not necessarily due to local tissue damage or injury and can be described as pain that persists after an injury has healed or an illness has resolved.

It can start following a specific problem, but sometimes it comes on for no reason. It can occur alongside another condition you are already living with.

The following video gives an overview of the different between acute and persistent pain. Understanding Pain What to do about it in less than five minutes:

Persistent pain is real experience.  Persistent pain can be felt in a specific area of the body, such as the back, legs or neck, but can also be felt throughout the body. People have different experiences of persistent pain – it can be occasional or continuous, may flare up easily, or seem to move around the body.

Persistent pain occurs where the brain gets confused and does not interpret the signals it receives from the body properly and becomes hyper alert to any sensation and interprets them as pain.  Pain is a warning system or ‘alarm’, activated by the nervous system. It is a ‘protector’ – the body’s way of getting you to do something. After an injury, this alarm is helpful as it gives you time to heal. But sometimes alarms keep going off long after healing has occurred, and some go off for no reason. Persistent pain can often develop from the nervous system’s ‘alarm’ becoming overly sensitive, like a car alarm that goes off when someone just brushes against a car.

Your brain learns to produce pain because it thinks that you need to protect your body. When you protect your body, you tend to move less. This leads to a negative cycle of stiff joints and weaker muscles which may also produce pain. Being less active may have an impact on your ability to sleep and may lead to weight gain.  Pain is not just about damage. The alarm system is influenced by a lot more than just your body tissues. Many factors in your life can play a part, such as how you think about pain, your emotions and your lifestyle.

All of these things can have a negative effect on your mood, and lead to anxiety and negative thinking about the future. It can have an impact on our stress levels, immune response and ability to work. It can have a strong negative effect on our family and friends too. This is called a ‘pain cycle’.

There are no tests to identify if you have persistent pain. Tests like scans, xrays and blood tests are not useful unless there is a need to exclude specific problems. Persistent pain can be extremely uncomfortable, particularly when doing activities that you are not used to doing.  It is important to remember though that even though you may be in a lot of pain, it does not mean that you have a serious underlying problem with the tissues of your body.  Similarly, persistent pain is not a sign that you are damaging your body.

Many people have already had lots of tests, investigations and medical or surgical treatments, and know that long term pain does not always go away. One of the keys to living well despite pain is self-management. The good news is there are lots of ways you can make changes to help manage your pain, be more in control and improve your quality of life.

What we have found is that there are things that can be done to change how much attention your brain pays to the pain signals. It may not be possible to remove the pain completely but people can ‘turn down the volume’ on their pain signals. Often this is done by retraining your brain by showing it that you are able to complete activities without causing damage.

Tame the Beast is a short, animated video explaining pain

Retrain Pain Foundation is a series of 1 minute videos covering various topics

 The Pain Toolkit – Pain Self Management by Pete Moore

Live Well With Pain | Living Well Despite Your Pain is a website for people who are living with pain. It contains useful information, resources, and printable booklets. The ‘10 Footsteps’ help you learn skills to get you back on track to living well, despite pain