Pain is something everyone is well acquainted with. It doesn’t discriminate. No matter who you are, what your ethnicity, or the amount of money you have in your bank account; at some point in your life you will experience pain. The problem is when you experience pain more frequently than normal, and it gets in the way of your daily activities or your quality of life.
You hear terms such as chronic pain and acute pain, but what do they really mean, and when should you be concerned?
Acute pain is a severe or sudden pain that resolves within a few hours, days, or weeks. You might feel acute pain when you have an injury, are sick, or have surgery. Generally, with acute pain, you can pinpoint the location of the pain, and you are aware of the cause of the pain. So, for example you stub your toe, sprain your ankle, cut yourself with a knife while slicing something, or pull a muscle. Acute pain’s job is to inform you of an injury to further protect you. Acute pain is brought on by the damaging of the tissue in the affected area. Acute pain is a protection mechanism for your body. It alarms you of the pain in hopes that you will react to reduce the exposure to whatever the guilty party is. Whether it be that you touched a hot stove, or ran into something sharp, it’s there to tell you something isn’t right!
Chronic pain on the other hand, is persistent, lasting for several months, or longer, and is a health condition in its own category. Chronic pain is any pain lasting beyond the expected healing period, typically 6 months or longer. With chronic pain, you may know the source, maybe you were hurt and have healed but the affected area still causes you pain and sometimes even intensifies. So, you sprained your ankle 6 months ago, but still have constant pain despite efforts to heal. Chronic pain may even come along without any injury at all, leaving you wondering the cause. There are times when you can’t identify the cause of the pain such as conditions like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome.
When deciding on what type of pain you have and when to be concerned, there are a few things you will want to look at. First, you’ll want to take into consideration the injury. If it’s something like a sprain or a pulled muscle, it’s always best to see a professional so that you can be aware of important information such as movements to avoid, and exercises and treatments that will help you to heal. While everyone’s body is different, you will also want to inquire about the healing period, and when you should be back to normal. This will give you an idea of how to gauge your healing and pain. Once you have addressed these issues, it may be a waiting game. If you are healing from an injury and bounce back within the allotted time, that’s great. If you are past the healing period, give yourself some wiggle room before you get concerned because again, everyone’s body is different you will still want to listen closely to your body and ask your chosen professional. If you are well past the healing period and still have pain, or have no obvious injury, you will want to be see by a professional who can give you the necessary care, and guidance.
While pain is something that we all will run into at some point in our lives it is very important that we are aware of the specifics, so we can treat our bodies with care. Don’t overlook signs of a serious problem but realize pain can be caused by several things that aren’t always immediately concerning. Being aware of the difference between acute and chronic pain may be what saves you a large doctor bill or helps to diagnose a serious issue.