Long-term consequences of chronic pain: mounting evidence for pain as a neurological disease and parallels with other chronic disease states

Pain Med. 2011 Jul;12(7):996-1004. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01187.x.


Objective: This article reviews the potential physical and psychological consequences of chronic pain and the importance of implementing effective therapeutic strategies to mitigate the harms associated with inadequate treatment.

Results: A review of recent literature examining the neurobiology and pathophysiology of chronic pain reveals that this highly prevalent condition negatively impacts multiple aspects of patient health, including sleep, cognitive processes and brain function, mood/mental health, cardiovascular health, sexual function, and overall quality of life. Furthermore, chronic pain has the capacity to become increasingly complex in its pathophysiology, and thus potentially more difficult to treat over time. The various health complications related to chronic pain can also incur significant economic consequences for patients.

Conclusions: Like other chronic conditions, it is important that chronic pain is managed with the objective of minimizing or avoiding its associated long-term sequelae. In line with this approach, early and effective multimodal treatment strategies, including analgesic therapy that controls pain intensity, are essential to improving outcomes and returning patients to normal levels of function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management