Chronic pain often differs from acute pain. The correlation between tissue pathology and the perceived severity of the chronic pain experience is poor or even absent. Furthermore, the sharp spatial localization of acute pain is not a feature of chronic pain; chronic pain is more diffuse and often spreads to areas beyond the original site. Of importance, chronic pain seldom responds to the therapeutic measures that are successful in treating acute pain. Physicians who are unaware of these differences may label the patient with chronic pain as being neurotic or even a malingerer. During the past decade, an exponential growth has occurred in the scientific underpinnings of chronic pain states. In particular, the concept of nonnociceptive pain has been refined at a physiologic, structural, and molecular level. This review focuses on this new body of knowledge, with particular reference to the chronic pain state termed 'fibromyalgia'.
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