What’s The Difference Between Acute And Chronic Pain?

What's The Difference Between Acute And Chronic PainPain is an uncomfortable, unpleasant sensation generally indicating injury or an issue with the body. It involves a complex interaction between nerves, spinal cord, and the brain. Unfortunately, pain is part of life. We all experience some kind of pain in our daily lives, even if we don’t have any medical condition.  How we experience pain ultimately depends on our beliefs, mood, attitude, and perception. The question is how much pain is enough to seek medical help? Well, since it’s very difficult to quantify pain in units, healthcare professionals use different terms to measure/describe the intensity and severity of pain. Acute pain and chronic pain are two common terms you will hear in the medical world. So, what’s the difference between acute and chronic pain?

Acute Pain Vs Chronic Pain

The best way to easily understand the difference is to remember the meaning of the two terms; “acute” meaning “severe” and “chronic” meaning “persisting”. Generally speaking, if a pain lasts for 3 months or more, it is referred to as “chronic pain”, on the other hand, a pain that lasts for a shorter time and is usually severe in nature, is called “acute pain”.

Melbourne Pain TreatmentAcute Pain

The American Chronic Pain Association defines acute pain as “a type of pain that comes on suddenly, is severe in nature, and lasts for a relatively short duration.”

Examples of Acute Pain:

  • Burns or cuts
  • Falls
  • Broken bones
  • Sports Injuries
  • Auto accidents
  • Childbirth
  • Surgery
  • Dental work

 

 

Common Characteristics of Acute Pain:

 

  • usually lasts for a specific period of time (< 3 months)
  • usually sharp/electric/burning/pulsing/nociceptive/peripheral or neurogenic in quality
  • usually accompanied with Edema which decreases with the passage of time
  • usually very severe in intensity at first and subsides with the passage of time
  • pain is usually localised to the site of injury
  • pain disappears once the healing process is complete
  • usually accompanied with discolouration such as hematoma/ecchymosis
  • active and passive movement of body parts produced pain
  • usually has a specific cause such as inflammation, tissue damage or a disease process
  • static and dynamic position of the body may change the quality and severity of pain

 

 

what is chronic painChronic Pain

The American Chronic Pain Association defines chronic pain as “a type of pain that is constant or recurrent in nature and usually lasts for 3-6 months or longer.”

Examples of Chronic Pain:

  • spine degeneration
  • migraine headaches
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • fibromyalgia
  • neuropathies
  • arthritis
  • back pain
  • cancer

Common Characteristics of Chronic Pain:

  • usually lasts for longer than 3 months or beyond
  • usually associated with a long-lasting condition, such as a disease, injury, or illness
  • it can alter the nervous system of the patient
  • can linger on even after healing has occurred
  • may make the patient angry/depressed/frustrated
  • pain symptoms are usually less localised to the site of injury, they are more generalised topographically
  • pain patterns may shift in location, intensity, and frequency
  • usually does not change with rest or movement
  • usually, it is very difficult to find any apparent cause
  • mysterious in nature

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What’s The Difference Between Acute And Chronic Pain?
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