All of us have had pain at some point. It may have been a scraped knee, a headache, or a broken bone. Pain is a sensation that can range from mild to average to severe, and it can also be temporary or last for months or years. We’ll discuss the differences between acute vs chronic pain and when you should talk to your physician.
Acute pain is a temporary pain that does not last beyond six months. The pain tends to begin suddenly and can be very sharp and intense. It is caused by something specific, such as accidental injuries, sprains, cuts, burn injuries, surgeries, broken bones, childbirth, and more. However, since acute pain symptoms can be irregular, it can be tricky to diagnose.
However, the pain gradually fades away once the underlying cause is identified and treated. Therapies, exercise, alternative treatments, surgeries, or over-the-counter medications can treat acute pain. If acute pain is not addressed properly, it can develop into chronic pain.
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Chronic pain persists and lasts for more than six months. It can continue even after the illness or injury that caused the pain has healed. How long and how often the pain occurs will vary between individuals and the cause – some patients may experience it every day, but for some, the pain may come and go over months or even years.
Headaches, back pain, fibromyalgia, vascular disease, arthritis, and cancer can cause chronic pain. To treat chronic pain, patients may have to undergo various treatments before finding the right one or may have to try out a combination of different treatments or therapies. OTC oral medications, pain relievers, and ointments can offer temporary solutions. Sometimes surgery is recommended to treat chronic pain permanently.
Acute pain does not last more than six months and is typically caused by a specific illness or injury. The pain begins suddenly and can have a high intensity. When the underlying cause is addressed, the acute pain is typically resolved. The following conditions can cause it:
Chronic pain is ongoing and typically lasts for more than 6 months. To treat chronic pain, patients may have to rely on a multidisciplinary approach or undergo various treatment options. Chronic pain has physical effects on the body, limiting the ability to move around, reduced energy, appetite alterations, and mental effects like depression, anger, anxiety, etc. Chronic pain is linked to conditions such as:
Whether you have chronic or acute pain, speak with your healthcare provider and discuss the treatment options. Your doctor can guide you with a suitable treatment plan based on your specific symptoms and health conditions.
Dr. Umayr Azimi, a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, is the Medical Director of MI Express Urgent Care and MI Express Primary Care in Canton, Michigan. He is a board-certified physician with advanced training in a wide range of non-life-threatening medical conditions. He believes that every visit is unique and treats every patient as an individual to ensure that all of his patients get the best treatment.