While pain hurts, it is also the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong—but not all pain is created equal. Acute pain is brief, comes on suddenly, and usually has a specific cause, which, when identified and treated, disappears. Chronic pain lasts normally three months or longer, and it can stick around even after recovery. It often occurs with other chronic health conditions.
It is estimated that 1.5 billion people globally live with chronic pain and prevalence increases as people age. The leading causes of chronic pain include nerve damage, arthritis, and cancer. Chronic pain can—and often does—interfere with daily life, and can impact both mental and physical health.
Citing data from a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study on chronic pain among over 20,000 patients, Hydragun looked at how different types of chronic pain affect other aspects of health including feelings of depression, ability to sleep soundly, and physical function.
The types of pain were classified by creating groups of pain points that were identified by study participants. While there is overlap in some of the groups of pain, the study’s authors found clinically relevant distinctions among each of the nine pain groups listed below.
Hydragun also cited health measures developed by Northwestern University’s Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS), which offer context on what the study’s various health measures mean for patients. Data on overall mental and physical health are included to offer a picture of the patient’s general health in that category.
The original University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study calculated the mean T-scores, a scientific method for measuring the severity of different functions and symptoms based on a baseline comparison to the general population.
Depending on the health metric, a score above or below 50 represents increased severity compared to the rest of the population. For example, a high T-score for sleep disruption means someone faces more difficulties falling asleep than the average person. A lower T-score on physical function means someone struggles with daily activities more than the average person.
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