First, let’s define “chronic” and “intractable” pain:
Wikipedia: “Chronic pain is defined as pain that has lasted longer than three to six months, though some theorists and researchers have placed the transition from acute to chronic pain at 12 months. Others apply acute to pain that lasts less than 30 days, chronic to pain of more than six months duration, and subacute to pain that lasts from one to six months. A popular alternative definition of chronic pain, involving no arbitrarily fixed duration, is “pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing.”
Intractable pain has been defined as “a pain state in which the cause of pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated and which in the generally accepted course of medical practice no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible or none has been found after reasonable efforts that have been documented in the physician’s medical records.”
The definition for chronic pain is very unspecific. I can think of a number of medical conditions that could cause pain to last for months or years, but is then resolved sometime thereafter. As a gymnast, I remember having a pinched nerve in my back, the pain of which lasted for 6 months. Thankfully, the pain did go away. So, yes, using this definition, chronic pain can go away.
I think many chronic pain patients are using the first definition to describe their medical condition, when they should be using the second one for intractable pain. By the time many patients make their way to a pain management doctor, the pain has already become intractable.
There’s no cure for so many of the medical conditions that can cause chronic pain, which means patients should be describing their condition as intractable, not chronic — at least when it comes to pain.
There are many treatment options for a “chronic” pain patient, but there are very few for an “intractable” pain patient. Because drug war. And in case you’re wondering, no, intractable pain cannot go away.