Chronic vs. Acute Pain

What Is Acute Pain?

Acute pain begins suddenly and is usually sharp in quality.  It serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body.  Acute pain may be caused by many events or circumstances, including:

  • Surgery
  • Broken bones
  • Dental work
  • Burns or cuts
  • Labor and childbirth

Acute pain may be mild and last just a moment, or it may be severe and last for weeks or months.  In most cases, acute pain does not last longer than six months and it disappears when the underlying cause of pain has been treated or has healed.  Unrelieved acute pain, however, may lead to chronic pain.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain persists despite the fact that an injury has healed.  Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years.  Physical effects include tense muscles, limited mobility, a lack of energy, and changes in appetite.  Emotional effects include depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury.  Such a fear may hinder a person’s ability to return to normal work or leisure activities.  Common chronic pain complaints include:

  • Headache
  • Low back pain
  • Cancer pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to nerves)
  • Psychogenic pain (pain not due to past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage inside)

Chronic pain may have originated with an initial trauma/injury or infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain.  However, some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.

Pain is the most common reason why people come to the chiropractor.  Whether it’s intense throbbing from a migraine or constantly aching joints from arthritis, we all want the pain to go away — and fast!  Sometimes pain is a temporary condition that will go away on its own (like after a minor injury or after surgery).  But sometimes the pain is an indicator of something more serious, and it won’t get better until it’s treated.  It is important that you have it diagnosed.  A chiropractor can advise you on available corrective treatments for pain management so you can decide on the best course of action for you.

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