Differences Between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain and 3 Reasons Why You Need to Know
When a part of your body gets injured, you probably hope it does not last longer than a few days or a few weeks at most. You want your body to heal itself quickly so you can get back to doing your favorite activities. Sometimes, an injury can turn into a longer-term issue, or go away and come back. This is why you need to understand the differences between acute pain and chronic pain, so you can manage your expectations for healing.
In each of these scenarios, it’s important to understand the type of pain it is to help you treat it effectively. It is also essential you understand so you can communicate your symptoms and the duration of your symptoms to the medical professional you may be working with. The difference between acute pain and chronic pain is essential, including the diagnosis and treatments for each.
What is Acute Pain?
So let’s discuss the differences between acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is a response that starts suddenly after a fresh injury. It is a temporary symptom. The actual pain sensation can be mild to severe and last from a few seconds to several weeks. If you think you have a severe acute injury, it’s always best to get a professional healthcare provider to assess the cause and symptoms. I include some at-home treatments below that you can try, but use your judgment to know whether you should visit a doctor sooner than later.
Because it is temporary, acute pain does not usually cause issues like anxiety or depression long-term.
Acute pain starts in response to a new injury. It is typically sudden, and once it improves or the source of the pain ceases, the symptoms go away. Here are some examples that you may be familiar with and have experienced. The most common acute injury is a sprained ankle.
- Sprained ankle
- Stubbed toe
- Broken bones
- Sports injuries
Common Natural Treatments
So the acronym to remember for treating acute pain is RICE therapy according to the National Journal of Athletic Training. This acronym is so handy and the best way to remember what to do for an acute injury, especially within the first 72 hours of the injury. Your body will begin inflaming the area to send more blood to the area to help it heal. In the case of acute pain, it is a good thing for your body. The inflammation (swelling) is short term (opposed to having long term inflammation which is not suitable for your body). You can help relieve the pain associated with the swelling and acute injury by doing the following.
- REST: You want to allow your injured body part to rest, so it is not damaged further.
- ICE: Put ice on it to help calm the area and the swelling.
- COMPRESSION: Tape up your injury with a compression bandage.
- ELEVATE: If you injure your ankle, you’ll want to elevate it to alleviate pain.
There is typically a clear expectation for healing in days to weeks when you have acute pain from an injury. However, in some cases, acute pain can turn into chronic pain over time. In these cases, you experience pain even after the tissue damage from the acute injury has healed. It is difficult to predict the type of injury that will trigger chronic pain. Sometimes small injuries cause major problems, and significant injuries heal quickly. It’s also not always clear what causes chronic pain, although many lifestyle factors may be contributing factors.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is often the result of a medical condition or diagnosis that leaves you in pain. It is characterized as constant or intermittent pain. Pain typically lasts six months or longer. The pain may never go away, but there are natural treatment methods and therapies that can be used to help minimize the pain and manage the symptoms and your functioning. Chronic pain is often associated with vitamin/mineral deficiencies, chronic inflammation, acute pain that becomes chronic pain, and other medical conditions like Lyme disease that often affect the joints.
The number one condition associated with chronic pain is low back pain. Other examples include:
- Back and neck problems
- Degenerative discs or other joints
- Some autoimmune diseases
Common Natural Treatments
Chronic pain is often managed and treated, but may never totally disappear from your life. There are coping mechanisms you can use to help you live a better quality of life, even if you have chronic pain. Below are some natural therapies for you to try if you suffer from chronic pain.
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Physical Therapy
- CBD oil can help relieve the pain caused by chronic conditions. We have a post discussing all the benefits and common uses here.
- Essential oils like frankincense, copaiba, holy basil- See our post on the Top 3 natural pain relief essential oils and how to apply them.
- Topical rubs like Bio-freeze can help with calming the symptoms temporarily. CBD oil and essential oils can also be used in topical creams.
- Anti-inflammatory diet- Nutrition is a critical part of the healing process. Ensure you’re eating whole foods with lots of vitamins and minerals so your body can heal itself. When you eat processed foods, your body thinks it is supposed to attack it because it does not view it as food. This can drastically slow down the healing process and make your symptoms worse. You can read more about the top 12 anti-inflammatory foods here.
So why is this important?
So I explained the differences between acute pain and chronic pain, including treatments. But you may be asking, why is this information relevant for you to understand?
3 Reasons Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain
- You’ll want to know how to manage and treat your condition, which varies based on the type of pain you are experiencing.
- You need to understand if it is a long term or short term condition so you can manage your expectations for healing.
- You need to be able to explain your condition to your chiropractor or medical provider based on the type of pain, and how long you’ve been experiencing it so they can assess and provide you the best treatment options.
If you’re experiencing pain, be sure to check out our