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Difference between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain

Pain can be an indication that something in us is wrong. Often, it warns us of the presence of danger within our body, triggering an instinctive response from us to avoid that possible bodily harm. There are various types of pain, differing in body site they affect, the degree of strength, and duration. In addition to this, people perceive, and react to, pain in highly individual ways.

Pain, likewise, is frequently classified as either acute or chronic. But what’s really the difference between acute pain and chronic pain, and how is each treated?

Acute pain, which is caused by a stimulus, occurs suddenly and persists within a short duration only. Chronic (which means frequently-recurring or long-lasting) pain, on the other hand, may not be a result of a peripheral stimulus and can be permanent.

A common example of a stimulus that causes acute pain is the pressure of an infection under a tooth. The nerves, which sense the pain, react to the stimulus by transmitting a signal to the spinal cord and brain by way of a secondary nerve cable. With the aid of the different body chemicals, this signal reaches its intended destinations successfully.

To relieve acute pain, the series of reactions triggered by the pain must be broken. In the example given, eliminating the pain stimulus – specifically, dealing with or curing the tooth infection – is the logical initial step to take. If this isn’t possible at once, taking analgesics – drugs that are known to hinder the processes or phenomena of pain – would be helpful.

Paracetamol and aspirin, which, of course, may be bought over the counter, are considered weak analgesics. Taking stronger ones, such as codeine and morphine, will definitely require a prior prescription from the doctor. Note, too, that all drugs have side effects, and a number of painkillers are known to be addictive.

Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is not a mere signal of an underlying problem as some experts believe; they contend that it’s actually a malady in itself. Since chronic pain is not likely to respond to analgesics, many of those who suffer from it seek help from outpatient facilities that offer diagnostic and pain-relief treatments.

There are different types of pain-treatment techniques. Some examples of psychological treatments, to help lessen pain, are hypnosis, meditation, relaxation training, behavior modification, and biofeedback. Some physiotherapy treatments, like warm-oil massages and some heat treatments, may help alleviate certain kinds of pain.

In relieving chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, and lower back, the transcutaneous electrical stimulation – known as electrotherapy – has proved effectual. The ancient Chinese technique called acupuncture is also a possible pain-treatment option that has gained acceptance in many countries. In this treatment method, needles are inserted at precise body points to stimulate the peripheral and central nervous systems. This then triggers the release of a number of neurotransmitters which block pain and, therefore, may help promote healing.

For pain that’s intense and seemingly lasting, a surgical procedure, in which a surgeon severs the nerve cable that transports pain from its origin to the central nervous system, may be your only remaining hope should all of the options mentioned here fail. However, this procedure may bring some disagreeable consequences. In some instances, the severing of nerves may even worsen chronic pain. Another danger in this procedure is that it can also hinder the flow of certain sensations (like one’s consciousness of cold, heat, and pressure) and be prevented from reaching their designated destinations.

Acute or chronic, pain is certainly no fun. But it definitely acts as a warning of an impending danger, and thus helps us prevent the occurrence of more serious problems.