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Differences Between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain


Parameters Acute Pain Chronic Pain
Nature of Pain Acute pain can last anywhere between a few moments to a few months. This type of pain can last for a maximum of 5-6 months. If it persists for more than 6 months, then it has turned into chronic pain. Chronic pain is a kind of pain that lasts for more than 6-8 months after an injury or accident or after starting suddenly/inexplicably without a specific cause. Environmental and psychological factors also affect chronic pain.
Causes and Symptoms The causesof acute pain can be as follows:

  • Injury/Trauma
  • Cuts and Burns
  • Toothaches/Stomachaches/Headaches
  • Accidents
  • Broken bones/ligaments/tendons
  • Sudden movements
  • Jerky actions while lifting heavy objects
  • Surgery
  • Temporary illness
  • Conditions like labor during childbirth, appendicitis, tissue damage, etc.

The symptomsof acute pain are as follows:

  • Shooting pain
  • Burning sensation with pain
  • Sharp pain, like poking of pins
  • Niggling ache in a body part
  • Cramps in muscles
  • Sensation of painful pressure on a body part
The causesof chronic pain include some of the causes of acute pain, and some other causes as well. Chronic pain can also have unknown causes, which are difficult to determine, congenital causes or sometimes no real cause. Most of the causes of chronic pain are listed below:

  • Injury/Trauma
  • Accidents
  • Broken bones/ligaments/tendons
  • Surgery
  • Nerve damage
  • Spinal injuries/conditions
  • Pain due to cancer, arthritis, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, etc.
  • Long drawn out illnesses and serious diseases
  • Poor posture, wearing high heels all the time, improper sleeping positions, etc.
  • Curvature of the spine, aging of the spine, being overweight, etc.
  • Psychological problems like depression
  • Fibromyalgia

A few general symptomsof chronic pain are as follows:

  • Effect on sleeping pattern because of the pain, leading to insomnia
  • Negative effect on social life, making one unable to enjoy everyday activities or go out frequently
  • Frequent blackouts due to pain, blurred vision, nausea, headaches, irregular bowel movements, etc.
  • Decreased concentration and coordination, increased irritability and ‘low’ phases in mood
  • Pain that persists in spite of medication
  • Pain getting aggravated when one’s stress and anxiety levels rise
Effects of Pain Acute pain almost never has any long-term psychological effects, other than wariness of the object or thing that has caused the pain for the first time. But it does have a few short-term physical effectsas follows:

  • Sharp pain in the organ/body part that is hurt
  • Temporary inability to effectively use the body part, thus restricting movements/mobility
  • Mild or extreme physical and/or mental discomfort/distress while the pain lasts
  • Swelling, bruising, inflammation, etc., of the part that is hurt
The physical effectsof chronic pain are as follows:

  • Sleeplessness and fatigue
  • Weakened immune system
  • Loss of concentration and coordination
  • Disability

The psychological effectsof chronic pain are:

  • Increasing irritability, hopelessness, and stress
  • Mood swings and extreme frustration due to prolonged and mostly ineffective treatments
  • Withdrawal from physical activities and social events
  • Depression, fear, and anxiety
Treatment and Cure The treatments for acute pain include the following:

  • Analgesics
  • Hot/Cold Treatment
  • R.I.C.E., i.e., Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation
  • Opioids
  • Acupuncture, CBT, i.e., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • NSAIDs, i.e., Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Traction (in case of back injuries in accidents or post surgery)
  • Exercising, breathing and relaxation techniques, massages, etc.

What are some option for chronic pain:

  • Acupuncture
  • Nerve blocks
  • Surgery/Laser Treatment/Laser Surgery
  • CBT, i.e., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Electrical stimulation, which may include intracerebral stimulation, spinal cord stimulation, nerve stimulation, etc.
  • Alternative treatments like hypnosis, psychotherapy, behavior modification, etc.
  • Magnetic therapy, radiation therapy, etc.Massage therapy,bio feedback, traction and physical therapy