Please leave your
details to watch the video

Enjoy the video!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

What is the Chronic Pain Cycle & How to Break It

Learn how to stop the vicious chronic pain cycle and find relief.

Shannon Dougherty
Reviewed by 
Dr. Abigail Hirsch, Ph.D.
December 19, 2021
 min. read

Chronic pain. Over a billion people worldwide suffer from it every day. That’s approximately 20% of our global population

Chronic pain is one of the top reasons for seeing a doctor. There seems to be no end in sight for this debilitating condition. If you’re experiencing the lingering effects of chronic pain, as you can see, you’re not alone.

If you remember anything from this piece, remember that last statement: You are not alone. Which means, you don’t have to suffer alone either. In this article, you’ll learn what chronic pain is, its varying causes, and the best way to finally put an end to your chronic pain. 

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain (a.k.a persistent pain), is any long-lasting pain. Different from acute pain, chronic pain lingers beyond the normal recovery period for illness, injury, or surgery, or happens alongside a chronic health condition like arthritis or fibromyalgia. 

Chronic pain can persist for months or even years. People suffering with chronic pain may notice their pain “comes and goes”, or they may never feel relief from their discomfort. They may also have an increased sensitivity to pain and touch.

Chronic pain can affect your lifestyle, work, family life—your whole world, really. Some people can’t eat, can’t sleep, and can have great difficulty with even simple movement. Chronic pain can make it really difficult  to enjoy life with a pain cycle  that never seems to end. 

It goes without saying that it can be just as hard on family members as it is on the person suffering. Family members often feel helpless when they see someone they love in constant agony. When you suffer, your whole family suffers.


What Causes Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain can occur in many ways. It may have first reared its ugly head after an injury or sickness. Although the illness or injury is a thing of the past, chronic pain persists. Or maybe there is  an ongoing medical issue or there is physical pain without any history of injury, illness, or trauma. 

In far too many cases, chronic pain has become an unexplainable condition. We’re here to challenge that idea, and offer some solutions.  What is the Chronic Pain Cycle?

People living with chronic pain often become consumed with their pain. This can lead to a relentless circle of suffering called the chronic pain cycle:

  • Disease/Pain
  • Tense muscles
  • Stress
  • Fear/Anger/Frustration
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • More disease/Pain

How to Stop the Chronic Pain Cycle

The first step in relieving your pain is to have a good understanding of how the pain cycle works. Let’s take a closer look at each step:

1. Disease/Pain

Chronic pain and stress go hand-in-hand. When you suffer from prolonged pain, it adds extra stress to your mind and body. Pain and stress alert your body when something’s wrong, but it’s only meant as a short-term reminder as the body wasn’t designed to deal with this for an extended amount of time. When your mind and body get “stuck” in flight or fight mode, both mind and body get overworked over time and this is where the pain cycle starts. 

Having a good understanding of what's causing your pain is a great place to start when you want to stop the cycle. Learning the science behind how your pain works and how you can change certain reactions to pain will help your mind/body realize you’re not in danger. 

Fun fact: 90% of Lin members lower their pain intensity, reduce pain interference in their lives, and/or start to sleep comfortably, feel happy and calm, and cope better if pain flares up.

2. Tense Muscles

Tense muscles—most often caused by physical or mental stress—are your body’s way of protecting injured joints. Your muscles will partially contract for a short period. At first, your muscles may feel stiff or achy, but the longer they stay contracted, the more likely you’ll develop chronic pain. 

When you relieve tense muscles, you can stop the pain cycle from progressing further. Lin Health has multiple physical therapy specialists, with combined experience of treating over 10,000 tense muscles!

3. Stress 

The brain controls every function of the body. From beating hearts to moving limbs. When we are stressed, our brain releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Large amounts of cortisol built up over time can cause a number of symptoms throughout your body—including pain. 

Learning how your brain is actually contributing to your pain starts with an accurate diagnosis. Our pain diagnostic specialists are rained to perform an in-depth assessment to identify the specific factors that contribute to your pain. Once our care team has a clear understanding of your diagnosis, they will put together a care plan with treatment options specific for you. 

4. Fear/Anger/Frustration

These negative feelings are a natural coping mechanism for dealing with pain. Unfortunately, they’re counterproductive as they only aggravate pain further by putting your body into a state of constant stress. 

Many Lin members have found relief by using our techniques for reducing fear, anger, and frustration. 

5. Depression

When you’re continuously battling chronic pain, feeling sad and helpless is inevitable. Being in a state of constant depression circles back to the stress part of the cycle which then releases more cortisol into your body.

Our mental health specialists use specialized tools like Calmigo and behavioral therapies to help shift a  depressed state back in the direction of healing.  

6. Fatigue

We all get tired of dealing with the pain. It is exhausting both mentally and physically. Sleeping allows our bodies to heal. When we don’t get  enough sleep because we’re in so much pain, guess what happens? We don’t have a chance to heal. 

Lin’s personalized care plans can help reduce fatigue and get your body back to healing. We have dedicated sleep coaching partners ready to help. 

How to Overcome Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can affect every area of your life. But there is some good news—you can overcome it. The best treatment plan starts with understanding, knowledge, and support. Working with an integrated pain management program that takes all of you into account can offer you the relief you’ve been desperate for. 

Ready to Put an End to Your Pain Cycle?

Lin Health can help. With evidence-based therapies, non-invasive pain relief methods, and best-in-class remote health tools, chronic pain healing is more possible than you might have thought.

Try It!

Start finding real relief from chronic pain today - give Lin a try.

Get in touch

Start finding real relief from chronic pain today - give Lin a try.

Get in touch

Join thousands of Lin members and reclaim your life from pain

Get in touch

Don’t miss a thing!

Know more, feel better. Sign up for our newsletter and keep up with the latest in pain science.

Not ready yet?

Check out our Free Resource Center with lessons & exercises to learn more about the latest science behind chronic pain.

Check out our Free Resource Center with lessons & exercises to learn more about the latest science behind chronic pain.

Take me there

How do you want to chat with us?

(We’re available!)
Thanks for you message!
A member of our team will get back to you ASAP.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Have any questions?
Our team is here to help

Charlie Merrill / PT and clinical advisor
Live podcast

Join leading PhD researcher & pain psychologist for an outstanding conversation

Healing Chronic Back Pain: The active ingredients

Charlie Merrill / PT and clinical advisor
Nov 2
1-2pm EST/10-11am PST
Join now
Charlie Merrill / PT and clinical advisor
FREE: Exclusive round table

Join leading PhD researcher & pain psychologist for an outstanding conversation

The truth about fibro recovery

Charlie Merrill / PT and clinical advisor
Oct 26
1-2pm EST/10-11am PST
Join now