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Acute vs Chronic Pain

Understanding the differences between acute vs chronic pain.

The exact definition of both “acute pain” & “chronic pain” are likely to vary depending on whom you talk to. However, there are some main differences when discussing acute vs chronic pain that seem to be generally accepted.

Acute pain occurs immediately and usually consists of pain that could be described as “sharp” or “burning.” It lasts for only a short period of time and should be completely gone once the initial injury has fully healed. For example, if you got a paper cut, the associated pain would be considered acute and over a short period of time that pain would go away. Other examples of acute pain are:

  • Broken bones
  • Bruises
  • Cuts/Scrapes
  • Burns
  • Pain from surgery or other operations

Chronic pain continues to occur even after the issue has fully healed. A person could experience acute pain for a period of time but then begin to experience chronic pain as the initial injury as healed but pain is still present. For example, a surgery to remove a herniated disc that was causing the patient pain in the lower right area of the back could still leave the patient with pain in that area – despite being fully healed from the herniated disc and surgery. Other examples of chronic pain are:

  • Pain from disease such as cancer or arthritis
  • Migraine/Headache
  • Continuous back pain

One notable implication of chronic pain is the heightened susceptibility to emotional damage. Living with such a condition can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental struggles. It is important to discuss your chronic pain with your doctor honestly in order to determine all avenues of treatment.

For those of us fighting pain located in the right lower area of the back, it can be easy for us to dismiss the pain as something that will solve itself. However, that is a dangerous gamble and not taking action leaves Americans suffering the consequences. Both acute and chronic pain have major consequences on our society. According to the US National Library of Medicine with the National Institutes of Health, acute and chronic pain alike costs the United States 650 million lost workdays and $65,000,000,000 ($65 billion) each year.

Understanding your pain is very beneficial in determining your treatment plan. Although the symptoms of acute vs chronic pain can be blurred, it is imperative that you and your doctor are clear on what type of pain you are dealing with.

The treatments for acute vs chronic pain will vary and there is no set treatment for either, however, a combination of treatments and therapies are likely to be used.

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