What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
How is pain defined? Understanding the answer to this simple question can help you and your doctor find the best treatment to your pain. Understanding pain starts by first defining the most basic aspect of pain: acute pain vs chronic pain.
Acute Pain is typically defined by a type of pain that lasts less than 3 months, or pain that is directly related to soft tissue damage such as a sprained ankle or a paper cut. Acute pain is of short duration and gradually resolves as the injured tissue heals. We usually think of acute pain as sharp and severe (2).
Chronic Pain is any pain that lasts for more than three months. The pain can become progressively worse and reoccur occasionally, outlasting the usual healing process. After injured tissue heals, pain is expected to stop once the underlying condition is treated, according to conventional ideas of pain. However, chronic pain can persist after injuries for no apparent biological cause. Chronic pain can cause significant psychological and emotional trauma and often limits an individual’s ability to fully function (1).