Acute pain and chronic pain: do you know the difference?

Very often, especially on specialist pages, language is used that is not always easy to understand. Jargon (this is how the ‘special’ language of a profession is called) is often used unconsciously by those who know the subject very well (precisely because of work-related issues). But sometimes this creates a communication barrier, causing misunderstandings on the other side. Especially in the medical field, it is best to avoid lack of clarity.

Today we try to explain, in simple and direct words, the difference between the definitions of ‘acute pain’ and ‘chronic pain’. Because they are terms that we hear used very frequently and often the doctor’s ‘words’ have a tendency to frighten us a little, especially when we do not fully understand their meaning.

Let us therefore shed some light and try to understand what is involved in suffering from acute pain and what is involved in suffering from chronic pain.

Acute pain

When we talk about acute pain we are referring to something that occurs suddenly, a sign that your body has suffered some damage.
We are talking about pain that can easily be traced back to an action (although not always in a direct way): you twisted your torso and a twinge made you jerk, you hit an edge with your elbow, you bent down to pick something up off the ground and pulled a muscle.
We are talking about a pain that should generally be of short duration (although intense) and that will disappear as the injury that caused it heals. Appropriate treatment will reduce the pain by healing the problem that generated it. Acute pain is often described as stinging, pounding, stabbing and is easily localised

Chronic pain

Chronic pain, by definition, lasts longer and it is not certain that a common treatment with painkillers can relieve it. It may be associated with a long-term illness, a repeated posture problem, or our own carelessness (which is why we always say that the body’s signals should never be neglected). Chronic pain must be brought to the attention of a doctor so that he or she can trace its cause and devise an effective recovery plan. Chronic pain is described as a dull, throbbing, often deep pain and may be associated with a strong emotional component, limiting the sufferer’s physical performance.

The advice of a specialist

The one thing that never changes in the presence of pain is the advice to seek the care and advice of a doctor. All too often the presence of chronic pain is the consequence of something we have neglected for too long: incorrect posture, pain that has not been treated promptly. Moreover, chronic pain is very difficult to treat and will force us into a very long period of special care. We do not always have to go to the doctor when the pain becomes unbearable. Very often the best solution is to go early. Not only will we heal sooner, but we will undoubtedly avoid unpleasant consequences. Do not be lazy in the presence of pain, even if it seems small and insignificant. Take care of yourself. Always.

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