Chronic Disease

Identifying Pain: The Difference Between Acute And Chronic Pain

Q: What’s the difference between acute pain and chronic pain?

You know what pain is. We tend to call any unpleasant sensation that follows an injury “pain”, more often physical than mental, but it does apply to both. At its most basic level, pain acts as a form of defence mechanism for the body to put you out of harm's way. Identifying the type of pain you have will help determine the treatment you need.

Get To Know Your Pain 

In this article, we’ll dive into the distinction between chronic and acute pain. 

Acute pain is an immediate reaction from a specific cause (such as a burn or a stubbed toe) and generally does not last a long time. 

Acute pain is characterised by these sensations:

  1. Stabbing

  2. Shooting

  3. Throbbing

  4. Burning 

It can intensify as the injury worsen and resolves once the injury is treated or fully healed. However, acute pain can evolve into chronic pain if the injury is not treated properly.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, can occur without a clear cause or a chronic health issue and can last a very long time. Meanwhile, chronic pain is often associated with sometimes debilitating symptoms including:

  1. Limited mobility

  2. Changes in appetite

  3. Lack of energy

Chronic pain also causes emotional trauma and can manifest itself as depression, anxiety, anger or fear of re-injury. Many types of chronic pain are headaches, arthritis, cancer, nerve pain, back pain, and fibromyalgia.

Managing Pain

Most acute pain dissipates with time or with treatment. For example, a cut heals with ointment. A bruise disappears with time. There are options from medications to surgery that are designed to limit the duration of acute pain so that you can get back to feeling normal. Chronic pain, by definition, is not easy to treat. In some cases, the pain comes and goes. With chronic pain, your nervous system can sometimes be altered, making it more sensitive to pain. As a result, painful sensations might feel more severe and last longer.

If chronic pain cannot be treated, say, in situations where the pain itself is a symptom of another condition, for example, arthritis, the object of interventions is not to treat but to manage pain over time. Management of chronic pain can include pain relievers and other medications, acupuncture, biofeedback, relaxation training, hypnosis, distraction techniques, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. 

Need Help With Pain?

Whether your pain is acute, or you suspect, chronic, speak with your GP. Your doctor is the best first step in pain treatment and management. If you have any questions about pain treatments or management options, reach out to Naluri’s own medical advisors. 

- Dr Raja Ahmad Shahrul -

Dr Raja Ahmad Shahrul is a Naluri mental health coach and a medical advisor with interests in chronic disease prevention and sports and exercises prescription. He is passionate about helping his patients build healthier lifestyles toward a rewarding life.