Pain is diagnosed as either acute or chronic. The difference is important to know with regards to treatment. It’s also important to understand that acute pain can become chronic.

How do I know if I have Acute Pain or Chronic Pain?

Acute Pain

Acute pain is temporary and can occur suddenly from injury or illness. The most common causes of acute pain include:

Acute is a warning to prevent further harm. It is part of your body’s natural protection system. Pain is triggered to alert you of an injury. To warn you to cease any activity that will make the injury worse. For example, a sprain makes it hard to walk. The pain makes sure you do not walk and allow the injury to heal.

Acute pain comes with an expectation that healing will occur within a specific time. The injuries follow a typical pattern. Acute injuries also do not come with anxiety or depression. The exception to this is if the injury requires extensive rehabilitation.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is constant or intermittent pain. It typically lasts for three months or longer. It differs from the usual cause-and-effect pattern of acute pain. When treating acute pain, the goal is to be in good health. Treating chronic pain sees a shift to pain management and improved function instead.

Chronic pain is often associated with:

  • Acute pain that worsens. A person will experience pain after an injury has healed. However, it’s hard to know what injuries will trigger chronic pain. Sometimes a small injury develops problems. Other times, severe damage heals quickly.
  • Chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response. It’s designed to protect from injury and foreign bodies. When your body remains in constant alert, though, inflammation becomes chronic. This overreaction causes pain, fever, and fatigue.
  • Medical conditions: Conditions such as fibromyalgia and Lyme disease cause joint pain. Therefore, joint pain is the most common cause of this chronic pain.
  • Cancer-related pain. Late-stage cancer can be associated with chronic pain. However, medical treatment advances have improved the ability to control this pain.
  • Vitamin deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency causes muscle weakness and pain. Deficiency in vitamin B12 affects nerves, causing neuropathic pain.

The cause of chronic pain can be difficult to determine. The most common causes include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Living with chronic pain also increases the risk of anxiety and depression.

Pain Categorized By Cause

  • Referred pain: when musculoskeletal pain felt in one area caused by a problem elsewhere. A common example is having hip pains when you are having lower back issues.
  • Neuropathic pain: is triggered by nerve malfunction. The pain can be sharp and cause ongoing tingling or numbness. You may also experience burning or cold sensations.
  • Hyperalgesia: a condition marked by an exaggerated response to a stimulus.
  • Allodynia: A condition where a stimulus causes pain that would normally not. For example, having a sunburn. Thereafter, when clothes touch skin pain is present.

Pain is also described as mild, moderate, or severe. You can also categorize it by the duration (constant or intermittent). Although It helps doctors when you can provide an accurate description of the pain. You are going to get more accurate treatment and healing.