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Chronic pain is a condition in which there is long-term pain in a certain area of the body. Chronic pain is different from acute pain. Acute pain is a rapid response to damage or injury and serves to alert the body of potential or actual harm. Acute pain resolves in up to 6 weeks. Chronic is the term used when the pain is reoccurring or when it lasts more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain persists beyond the time it takes for any tissue damage or inflammation to heal.

Physiotherapy is a very effective way to help reduce the problems experienced as a result of chronic pain. has specialist physiotherapists who can provide you with a thorough assessment and devise a treatment programme to suit your needs.

Soft tissue massage and mobilisations of the foot and ankle to relieve pain and stiffnessAbove: Soft tissue massage and mobilisations of the foot and ankle to relieve pain and stiffness

What causes chronic pain?

The exact cause of chronic pain is not fully known. It is thought to be due to an on-going firing of the nervous system that signals pain for weeks, months, or even years.

Chronic pain can result from a number of factors and may develop after an initial injury or disease or may be psychogenic. Psychogenic pain is pain that is not related to any illness, physical condition, or injury.

If initiated by an acute injury, chronic pain continues beyond the natural course of healing. Common injuries, disease or psychogenic problems that can lead to chronic pain include;
  • Trauma
  • Overuse injuries
  • Joint problems
  • Back, neck and spinal cord injuries
  • Shingles
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Migraines / headache
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Emotions – tension, stress or anxiety
  • Overweight

Why does my pain persist?

With chronic pain there is no longer any tissue damage or inflammation. After 12 weeks the healing time for the damaged tissues has passed, therefore the pain must be caused by other factors.

Chronic pain is believed to result from adaptations made by the brain over time in the attempt to provide further protection to the affected area. Theses adaptations cause the brain to become more sensitive to the pain. This sensitisation means that impaired signals from the rest of the body are wrongly warning the brain of danger. In some cases, the brain may also misconceive the exact whereabouts of the pain which explains why pain radiates to other areas of the body.

The natural response to the pain is to stop the activity that is causing it. Over time, pain may be produced by the smallest of activity which leads to increased pain avoidance and minimal activity. Eventually, chronic pain will result in further disuse and even disability. Reduced activity will also lead to general health problems caused by decreased fitness, muscle deconditioning and weakness.

Because chronic back pain is not necessarily a sign of damage, it is believed to be caused by the individual’s response to threat, real or perceived. The pain very much exists and is due to the body’s response to certain stimulus or activities. Due to the lack of physical damage in many cases, chronic back pain can be extremely difficult to treat. Because of this it is highly important to choose a specialist physiotherapist that is experienced in treating chronic pain.

assessment of soft tissues and joint stability to pinpoint source of chronic knee painAbove: assessment of soft tissues and joint stability to pinpoint source of chronic knee pain

Symptoms of chronic pain

The symptoms of chronic pain vary significantly in characteristics and severity between sufferers. Chronic pain can also cause a number of secondary problems. Symptoms may include;
  • Deep dull pain in affected area
  • Radiation of pain to another area
  • Pain can be sharp / stabbing
  • Poor sleeping patterns / insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Reduced fitness
  • Poor general health
  • Symptoms are worse in the morning and late at night
Physiotherapy is a valuable method to help treat symptoms related to chronic pain.

Physiotherapy for chronic pain

There are a number of activities that physiotherapy utilises to treat your chronic pain. Specialist physiotherapists at will provide you with a thorough assessment and comprehensive physiotherapy programme which aims to understand and reduce the problems you are experiencing. Your physiotherapist will focus on reducing your pain. However, because your pain is not caused by tissue damage or injury, your physiotherapist will not directly focus on the location of the pain. Your physiotherapy programme will therefore include activities that focus on increasing your activity levels and improving your general health and fitness. The physiotherapy will aim to improve quality of life, function and mobility in the attempt to normalise your perception of pain. Physiotherapy treatment may include: A personal physiotherapy programme with will help you overcome the problems you have been experiencing due to your chronic pain. Physiotherapy helps reduce symptoms, prevent future problems and return your activity levels. The success of your physiotherapy will highly depend on your commitment and adherence to your programme.


Chronic pain is a condition where there is long term pain and can affect any part of the body. The pain can be triggered initially by trauma or injury or the cause can be unknown. However, pain that persists longer than 12 weeks is termed chronic. This is because after 12 weeks any injury of tissue damage has now healed therefore chronic pain is believed to be caused by adaptations made by the brain to protect the body from further damage. This sensitisation of the brain causes a change in the individual’s perception of the pain. Chronic pain sufferers experience a deep dull ache in the affected area of varying severities. The pain can also radiate to other areas. Chronic pain also causes fatigue, reduced activity and eventually reduced fitness and muscle deconditioning.

Chronic pain is not caused by tissue damage therefore can be very difficult to treat. Physiotherapy is a highly effective method of treatment to help reduce symptoms, improve function and prevent future problems occurring. The specialist physiotherapists at will provide you with a personal programme that will focus on your problems and help you return to your everyday activities and hobbies. Call now on 0330 088 7800 for more information or to book an appointment please contact us. You can also book an appointment online today

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