Acute vs. Chronic Pain! ~ THE DOCTOR IS IN!

By: Dr. Rami Rustum – May, 2017

It is not unusual to see these two terms confused by patients and even caregivers. Probably, because pain could be difficult or an annoying problem to deal with.

First, it could be helpful to share easy definition or understanding of the pain:
Pain occurs when something hurts, causing an uncomfortable or unpleasant feeling. The presence of pain often means that something is wrong. Each individual is the best judge of his or her own pain.

In 1979, The International Association for the Study of Pain ( IASP) came up with the first statement to define pain:

“ an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”.

Classification of pain can widely vary based on many factors. One of the bases used is “Timing”.

Acute pain: Acute pain usually comes on suddenly and is caused by something specific. It is sharp in quality. Acute pain usually does not last longer than six months. It goes away when there is no longer an underlying cause for the pain. Causes of acute pain include:

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

After acute pain goes away, a person can go on with life as usual.

Chronic pain is pain that is ongoing and usually lasts longer than six months. This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away. Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years. Some people suffer chronic pain even when there is no past injury or apparent body damage. Chronic pain is linked to conditions including:

• Headache
• Arthritis
• Cancer
• Nerve pain
• Back pain
• Fibromyalgia pain

People who have chronic pain can have physical effects that are stressful on the body. These include tense muscles, limited ability to move around, a lack of energy, and appetite changes. Emotional effects of chronic pain include depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury. Such a fear might limit a person’s ability to return to their regular work or leisure activities.
References: IASP

American Pain Society