Acute and chronic pain have important differences that can give physicians important clues for diagnosing and treating pain. And the types of pain are different, in some cases acute pain can develop into chronic pain.
By definition it is temporary, and it may occur suddenly usually associated with an injury or illness.
Acute pain serves as the body’s alarm system to prevent further trauma. Like a strained muscle, resting the muscle prevents further injury, giving the muscle time to heal. Generally the source of pain is clear, and if the injury heals usually the pain ceases.
Examples of acute pain:
- Car accident
- Broken bones
- Sports injuries
Usually there is a pattern occurrence of injury or illness followed by a period of healing within a certain time frame. Such as with an ankle sprain, generally healing time ranges from two to four weeks. And unlike with chronic pain, anxiety and depression do not usually accompany sports injuries.
Chronic pain is a constant or intermittent pain lasting three months or longer. The goal or chronic pain often focuses on managing pain and improving physical function. Chronic pain may be associated with many possible catalysts: acute pain developing into chronic pain, chronic inflammation, medical conditions (Lyme disease), a vitamin deficiency, or pain from cancer. And unfortunately it is not always possible to determine the cause of chronic pain.
Examples of chronic pain:
- Lyme disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Peripheral Neuropathy
Pain can also be categorized by its cause or the sensation of the pain. Such as neuropathic pain which is triggered by a malfunction of the nerves, causing sharp or shock like pain, unending tingling or numbness, or a burning sensation. Severity is another way of describing pain such as mild, moderate, and severe; and duration intermittent or constant.
Figuring out the type of pain can significantly help doctors diagnosis and treat patient’s pain correctly.
Dr. Castillo is a physician who believes in listening to his patients and learning a detailed history so he can accurately diagnosis and treat patients’ pain.