Acute vs. Chronic Pain

We can think of pain occurring in two different ways, acute and chronic. Pain can be categorized as acute if it’s related to a specific episode. That could include a trip or a fall, an injury on the field during a game or practice, or a car accident. These may result in pain right away or after several hours. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is pain or symptoms that have lasted over a longer period of time. 

Treating an acute injury involves ruling out mechanical considerations such as fractures and tears.  Otherwise with proper treatment and time, acute injuries should fully resolve.  Chronic pain, on the other hand, has to be managed differently.  The clinical definition of chronic pain is often defined as pain lasting longer than 12 weeks.  Although this usually is the case, it’s not the only significant factor.  Those who suffer from chronic pain may not recall a specific episode or injury.  Instead chronic pain alters someone’s nervous system, making them more sensitive to pain.  Normal stressors like bending over, or sitting are painful.

Patients presenting with chronic pain need to be evaluated differently as the causes of pain are not as easily recognizable.  Diagnoses that can complicated chronic pain include arthritis, myofascial pain, chronic inflammation, and vitamin deficiency, among others.

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One Response to Acute vs. Chronic Pain

  1. Ellen Hughes says:

    You got my attention when you said that a pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks is a sign that you’re suffering from chronic pain. My son’s lower back pain has started 4 months ago. I don’t want the quality of his life to be affected too much because of it, so I will make sure to find a chronic pain treatment that will best work for him.

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