What Is Intractable Pain Syndrome (IPS)?


Intractable pain is considered a constant and severe form of chronic pain that is difficult to manage or treat. Intractable pain syndrome (IPS) occurs when chronic pain progresses to intractable pain. IPS results in the dysfunction of multiple bodily systems, such as immunologic, neurologic and cardiovascular.


Intractable pain syndrome can be experienced anywhere in the body, including the joints, muscles, back, head, etc. Symptoms of IPS include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Constant pain
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Loss of appetite or malnutrition
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Lifestyle restrictions, including mobility
  • Difficulty with daily requirements
  • Endocrine abnormalities
  • Elevated inflammatory markers in the blood


Intractable pain syndrome occurs when an underlying pain condition or injury causes the body to send excessive signals or impulses to the central nervous system (CNS). This results in inflammation and tissue loss in the body.

Although IPS does not always have an obvious cause, some major causes include, but are not limited to, the following:

Less common causes of IPS include the following:

  • Porphyria (rare group of disorders from a buildup of natural chemicals)
  • Lupus
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Abdominal adhesions


Those with one or more of the major causes listed above are at increased risk of developing intractable pain syndrome. Experiencing an injury also increases a person’s risk. Anyone with chronic pain should be aware of IPS, especially if pain becomes constant or other symptoms develop.

Additional source: Intractable Pain Syndrome Research and Education Project

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