Chronic conditions are long-lasting and require ongoing medical treatment or adjustments to one's daily life. "Chronic" is often used in contrast to "acute," which refers to a condition that comes on rapidly. When you are ill with an acute condition like the flu, you know that you will be back to normal within a short period. A chronic disease, however, may never go away and can disrupt your life in many ways.

Common examples of chronic conditions include heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis. According to research from the RAND Corporation, 60 percent of Americans have at least one chronic condition, and 42 percent of them have more than one chronic condition.

Chronic pain and treatment

Everyone experiences pain from time to time. For instance, you may sprain your ankle after stepping off a curb, but once the sprain heals, the pain goes away. This is an example of acute pain because it occurs quickly, has a specific cause and goes away once there is no longer an underlying cause. With chronic pain, on the other hand, you keep hurting for months