Acute Pain vs. Chronic Pain: How to Tell Them Apart

acute pain vs chronic pain

Pain is an unfortunate part of life.  Sometimes it has a purpose, warning us that our body is in danger or that there is something already wrong.  Other times, the cause is unclear. However, all pain can be distinguished in one of two ways: acute or chronic.

Acute Pain

Acute pain is normal and acts as a warning sign that you have been hurt or your body has suffered some sort of damage.  It serves a purpose, alerting you to the fact that something is wrong and you need to make a change.

For example, if you accidentally touch the hot surface of your stove or the barrel of your curling iron, you experience a sharp, severe pain, and your reaction is to quickly pull your hand away from the source.

Acute pain can last a short time, like when you burn yourself, or a longer period of time, like when you break a limb.  However, it should end when the injury that caused it has healed.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain isn’t so cut and dry.  The pain becomes like a disease, lasting even after the source injury has healed.  It can persist for weeks, months, even years after you sustain the injury.

Sometimes, the chronic pain comes from an injury that you’re well aware of.  It can also come from other medical conditions, like arthritis, cancer, or diabetes.  However, the source isn’t always easy to find and sometimes can’t be identified at all.

Difference in Acute Pain and Chronic Pain

As we’ve stated, the source of acute pain is easy to pinpoint.  However, the distinction between both types of pain can become difficult to make because acute pain can lead to chronic pain.

If the pain associated with your injury lasts longer than is reasonable for the injury that you’ve sustained, you need to seek medical treatment.  For instance, if the pain from a small cut or burn lasts longer than a month or so, see your doctor.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that it has already turned into chronic pain, but you need to keep it from worsening into such.

Chronic pain can also be accompanied by the following outlying physical and emotional effects:

  • Tensed muscles
  • Lack of mobility
  • Change in appetite and energy levels
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Fear of re-injury

Pain Treatment

Because acute pain comes from easy-to-identify, straightforward sources (such as burns/cuts, surgery, and broken bones), treatments are usually just as straightforward and disciplined.

Chronic pain, however, isn’t always as easy to treat.  The pain, like headaches and low back pain, persist because sources aren’t as easy to identify and/or the nervous system has been altered to make the pain more frequent or severe.  There are a variety of treatments that can be attempted to treat chronic pain in different areas of the body, either with Western medicine or naturally.

Worried about your acute or chronic pain?  Contact the Pain Relief Center in Plano.

If you have acute pain that you’re sure has lasted too long or chronic pain that you haven’t been able to treat, the Pain Relief Center is ready to help find a treatment course for you.


The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.

Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.

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