Chronic Pain

This information is useful for adults and older adults
A woman with chronic pain practices yoga.

Pain is a sensory and emotional experience that causes discomfort, and it’s our body’s way of telling us something is wrong – most often, some form of tissue damage. One of the most disabling problems in the United States, pain has historically been understood as an important symptom of other medical conditions. “In fact, many would argue and data suggest that it’s the most common symptom that leads people to seek health care,” says Robert D. Kerns, PhD, professor of psychiatry, neurology and psychology at Yale School of Medicine. “The most common presenting complaint, maybe with the exception of symptoms of the common cold, is pain.” 

Today, researchers have a better understanding of pain as a disease. Using new methodologies to study the brain and the central nervous system, researchers are now focusing on chronic pain that persists despite the resolution of an underlying injury or structural pathology that may have been the pain's initial source. “Pain is a problem that doesn’t fit the mold,” says Kerns. “It’s such a widespread problem, owned by everybody, and hence nobody. If you think about it, it’s quite profound. There is perhaps no bigger public health problem.”