Acute Pain vs Chronic Pain

  1. Acute Pain vs Chronic PainLet’s say one day you find yourself in pain, what is the first thing that must be done in order to start treating the pain you are feeling? It might seem simple, just identify what is hurting and be done. However, as we have learned in the past, it’s never really, that simple.Sure, some cases are easier than others: sprained ankle for example. You step the wrong way, the ankle twists and here comes the pain, innocent enough. The cause seems to be known, yet identifying the pain doesn’t stop at figuring out the cause! You also have to figure out the type of pain you are in… Let us explain.Let’s assume that your sprained ankle has been hurting for 4 weeks now, not the most common scenario but not rare either. So what kind of pain are you in – acute pain, or is it chronic pain? There are many more situations in which identifying pain is even more complicated since the underlying cause may not be as apparent or clear-cut, which would make figuring out the type of pain you are in, even more complicated.So what types of pain are there and what is the difference between them? Is it even that important to know the difference?As it turns out it is very important to determine both the root-cause of your pain as well as the type of pain you are experiencing in order to develop proper treatment and pain-management strategy for your particular ailment. Of course, all of this will be determined with and by your doctor. There are 3 generally recognized types or phases of pain: acute, subacute, and chronic pain:

    Acute pain – the duration of this type of pain is typically 4-6 weeks, and has many underlying causes: injury, infection, inflammation, tear, and much more including “non-specific”, which means there is no identifiable reason for it at all. While the duration of this type of pain is relatively short, the severity is quite strong and sharp.

    Subacute pain – if after the initial acute pain phase of 6 weeks, the pain continues to persist up to 12 weeks, then you are experiencing subacute pain. As in the acute pain phase the causes for the pain are much the same. In essence, it is an extension of the acute phase.


    Chronic pain – if the pain remains after the original 12 weeks, and continues to actively hurt then you are now experiencing chronic pain. It is important to note that if the pain stops for any duration of time, for example, a week and then begins again, then you are most likely experiencing frequent acute pain and not chronic pain. While the severity of this type of pain may vary, the sheer length of time that one suffers makes it the most difficult to deal with. Also with many cases of chronic pain, it is very difficult to know exactly what is causing the pain since the original underlying cause will have been long fixed by the time the chronic phase begins. It impacts one’s everyday life, job, and physical and mental well-being.

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