Chronic pain is nowadays used as an umbrella term referring to a wide range of clinical conditions, such as fibromyalgia, migraine, or long-standing pain states without actual known causes. However, labeling a patient’s clinical condition with the term “chronic pain”, when dealing with pain lasting longer than 3 months, might be misleading. This paper aims at analyzing the possible pitfalls related to the use of the term “chronic pain” in the clinical field. It appears, indeed, that the term “chronic pain” shows a semantic inaccuracy on the basis of emerging scientific evidences on the pathogenesis of different long-standing pain states. The major pitfalls in using this label emerge in clinical settings, especially with patients having a biomedical perspective on pain or from different cultures, or with healthcare providers of other medical specialties or different disciplines. A label solely emphasizing temporal features does not help to discern the multifaceted complexity of long-standing pain states, whose onset, maintenance and exacerbation are influenced by a complex and interdependent set of bio-psycho-social factors. Thus, finding a more meaningful name might be important. We call upon the necessity of bringing awareness and implementing educational activities for healthcare providers, as well as for the public, on the biopsychosocial approach to assess, prevent and care of chronic pain. Further research on the etiopathogenetic processes of chronic pain states is also required, together with examinative diagnostic methods, to individuate the most appropriate label(s) representing the complex long-standing pain states and to avoid adopting the term “chronic pain” inappropriately.
© 2021 Raffaeli et al.
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