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What's The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain?

When you visit a physician due to pain, it will often be separated into two categories: acute or chronic pain. By understanding the type of pain you are experiencing, you and your physician can work together to find the best treatment option. From the characteristics to causes, here's what you should know about your pain (chronic or acute):

What is Acute Pain?

The main factor of acute pain is that it has a specific cause and starts suddenly in response to an injury. It’s temporary (lasting less than three months) and is like your body's alert system to inform you that further harm may occur. The most common causes of acute pain include bruises, broken bones, or pulled muscles.

Though acute pain is short-term, and can often be treated with rest, it can become chronic when ignored. For instance, misdiagnosed or ignored sports injuries can worsen and lead to long term damage, ultimately leading to chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain?

Constant or intermittent pain that lasts three months or more is considered chronic. Unlike acute pain, which can be alleviated by treating the cause of the pain, chronic pain doesn’t have one exact cause. Because of this, the focus must shift to pain management and improving a person’s quality of life.

Often chronic pain is associated with inflammation, specific medical conditions, vitamin deficiencies, or ignoring acute pain that became chronic. It’s most common in older adults, with some even having two or more chronic pain conditions. Though not always treatable, it can be managed through several therapy techniques.

Whether your pain is acute or chronic, Methodist Sports Medicine is here to help you get back to peak performance. See the full list of services we offer or to make an appointment, or contact us today!