What Qualifies as Chronic Pain? The hurt that lasts

If you’ve been in pain for a while, you may be wondering, “at what point is my pain chronic”? In this article, you’ll read about what qualifies as chronic pain. 

Pain is an uncomfortable, unpleasant experience. Living in pain for a long time can be distressing and worrisome. Whether your pain is chronic or not, it is something worth discussing with your doctor. You deserve care and relief. Read on to learn about persistent pain. 

a woman in a hijab holds her head in pain. she sits in front of her laptop at work and wonders what qualifies as chronic pain?

About Chronic Pain

To understand what qualifies as chronic pain, you must first understand acute pain. Acute pain is a signal that your body is being damaged or may be damaged. It’s that signal that tells your body to move away from the hot fire. There is usually a very obvious source of the pain, like surgery or a broken bone. Further, the pain typically decreases as you heal. 

By definition, chronic pain is pain that lasts more than 3 months or beyond what is considered typical for healing. After the original damage to the body has healed, sometimes the pain signals stick around. Or, pain can be caused by an underlying medical condition, like Fibromyalgia. In this case, your pain may have no obvious cause. 

Some medical conditions that can cause chronic pain include: 

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Headache and Migraine 
  • Scoliosis
  • Cancer Pain
  • Endometriosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Although many diseases cause chronic pain, the World Health Organization also considers chronic pain to be a medical condition on its own. Chronic pain is not just a symptom.

At what point is pain chronic?

As mentioned, chronic pain is usually pain that lasts for longer than 3 months. However, it can also be defined by how it affects your life. 

Folks with chronic pain may experience disruptions to their everyday life. Living with chronic pain can take a toll on your overall physical, mental, and social health. Your pain may prevent you from going to work, seeing friends, caring for your family, etc. 

a man sitting at the end of his bed, holding his neck due to chronic neck pain while his wife sleeps. It is disrupting his sleep schedule and he's wondering at what point is this pain chronic? what qualifies as chronic pain?

Chronic pain tends to exist in a vicious cycle. The cycle usually follows the pattern of avoiding activities due to pain but pain worsening due to less activity. Here is an example: 

Candace has a bad back. Lately, she has been staying at home because her back hurts so much. She hasn’t been walking too much, so her strength and endurance to carry out her typical activities has decreased. If she has to run errands or clean her house, her pain flares and she has to recover for several days. This makes it hard for her to go out. 

If your pain has made it difficult for you to engage fully in your life for an extended amount of time, it may be chronic pain. However, what qualifies as chronic pain may be different for each person.

What to do if you have persistent pain

If you think you may have chronic pain, it is very important to see your doctor. There are many treatment options that may work for you. Treating chronic pain can be a long road, so starting as soon as you can is recommended. 

Further, your healthcare professional can investigate your pain and work towards diagnosing any underlying conditions.

a person sits down with their doctor. they are clasping their hands tight in anxiety while the doctor writes notes. They are there to see if their pain qualifies as chronic pain.

Pain can be unpleasant, scary, and uncomfortable, but there are many pain management strategies, treatments, and tools that can help you get back to a comfortable state. 


If you’re curious about chronic pain, take a look at our website. We offer pain education and support for folks with chronic pain. Take one of our eLearning courses, attend our free online support groups or ask a question in a discussion forum. Meeting others living with pain can be helpful. You are never alone! 

We also have a healthcare provider directory if you are looking for a pain specialist.


Cleveland Clinic (2020). Acute vs. Chronic Pain. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: here

Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Chronic Pain. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: here

Health Canada. (2022). Chronic Pain. Government of Canada. Retrieved from: here

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Chronic Pain. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from: here

Shurtleff, D. (2018). Chronic Pain: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved from: here  

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