About chronic pain

About chronic pain, options to help people manage their pain, and the Government of Canada's role in supporting people living with pain.

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About chronic pain

Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience typically associated with physical damage to the body. Chronic pain is when the pain lasts longer than 3 months. Sometimes chronic pain can occur:

The World Health Organization now recognizes chronic pain as a disease and not just a symptom of something else.

There are 2 types of chronic pain:

Chronic primary pain

Chronic primary pain occurs when:

Chronic secondary pain

Chronic secondary pain occurs together with underlying diseases or issues, such as

Acute Pain

Acute pain lasts less than 3 months and usually decreases as a person heals. Acute pain warns you that something has caused or may cause damage to your body.

Living with chronic pain

Nearly 8 million Canadians live with chronic pain. People who experience chronic pain face a wide range of physical, emotional and social challenges.

Pain is a unique and personal experience that can vary widely from person to person. Your experience of pain is influenced by:

Social barriers

Since pain is an invisible condition, other people:

People who experience pain can often feel isolated. This can lead to:

Chronic pain can have major impacts on a person's:

Treatments and therapies

Talk to your health care provider to find out what treatment options may be available and best for you and your situation.

Treatment options are most effective as part of a pain management plan that could involve different types of therapies and treatments to help manage your pain. Treatment goals may include a reduction in pain and (or) improvements in:

People with chronic pain should choose and use treatments based on their own needs. Examples of treatment options include:


Medications and substances that have an effect on the body, such as:

Psychological interventions

Interventions that aim to change thoughts, emotions, or behaviours, such as:

Physical and rehabilitation interventions

A process that enables people to reach or maintain optimal physical function, such as:

Medical devices or interventional pain procedures

Procedures or applications of medical devices that can treat or manage pain, such as:

Practitioner administered or manual therapy

Therapeutic activities administered by a health professional, such as:


Individual-led strategies focused on coping mechanisms or cognitive and behavioural factors, such as:

Chronic pain and opioids

Opioids are medications that are sometimes prescribed to treat pain. As with all medications, opioids have benefits and risks, and sometimes potentially serious side effects. The opioid overdose crisis is very complex, and untreated pain is a contributing factor. Health Canada firmly believes the medical needs of patients, including which prescription medications they should be taking, are best determined through shared decision-making between the patient and their health provider based on the unique needs of the individual.

Information on talking to your doctor about prescribed opioids.

Health Canada's Statement on Opioids and Pain Management (November 2022)

Related links

Contact us

Chronic Pain Policy Team
Controlled Substances and Cannabis Branch
Health Canada
Postal Locator: 0301A
Ottawa, ON


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