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The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain

There are different types of pain — more than just mild and severe — that can affect the way that you feel and perceive pain.

Acute Pain

Acute pain is short-term pain. It serves as a warning of injury or illness. Acute pain can range from mild to severe and is often caused by an injury or sudden illness. Examples of things that may cause acute pain include:

  • A broken bone
  • Dental work
  • Surgery
  • Childbirth
  • Burns and cuts
  • Gallstones

Acute pain is usually resolved when the underlying problem is treated. If acute pain is not properly treated, it can develop into chronic pain.

Chronic Pain

In contrast to acute pain that arises suddenly in response to a specific injury and is usually treatable, chronic pain persists over time and is often resistant to conventional therapies. People with chronic pain need long-term treatment and therapy to manage their pain. They feel pain differently and process those pain messages differently from an acute, stub-your-toe or paper-cut pain because of their long experience with pain.

Chronic pain may be related to a number of different medical conditions including (but not limited to) diabetes, arthritis, migraine, fibromyalgia, cancer, shingles, sciatica, and previous trauma or injury. Chronic pain may worsen in response to environmental and/or psychological factors.

There are a variety of treatment options for people with chronic pain. The goal of pain management is to identify and reduce or eliminate chronic pain so patients can return to an active and productive lifestyle.

For more information about the Pain Management Center, call 229-312-0300 or