Neck, Back, and Spine Pain: Chronic Post-Operative Pain

Chronic post-operative pain

Most of us would expect to have some degree of pain after undergoing surgery. However, when the pain persists beyond what would be considered normal, that is an entirely different—albeit relatively common—situation known as chronic postoperative pain.

All told, between 10 percent and 50 percent of people who undergo surgery will experience this. Fortunately, it is a condition that can usually be managed and, in most cases, one that will resolve on its own.

Causes of Chronic Postoperative Pain

It is often difficult to pin down a single cause of chronic postoperative pain. In many cases, post-surgical complications (including nerve damage, tissue damage, scar tissue formation, and infection) may be exacerbated by pre-existing health factors which predispose a person to pain.

These may include:

  • A prior history of chronic pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes, which can impede the healing process
  • Pre-existing nerve pain, such as peripheral neuropathy
  • Certain autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, in which surgery may cause a flare-up of pain symptoms
  • Older age, in which a person tends to heal more slowly
  • A history of anxiety or depression (as there is a direct interrelationship between psychological distress and chronic and acute pain)

Furthermore, complicated surgeries or ones lasting for more than three hours are more likely to result in chronic postoperative pain. The same applies to certain types of adjunctive therapy used to support surgery, including chemo and radiation therapy used after cancer surgery or radioiodine therapy used after a thyroidectomy.

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