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Acute vs. Chronic: Understand Your Pain

Different Types of Therapy for Different Types of Pain

If you’re in pain, you may have heard your doctor refer to it as acute pain or chronic pain. Both types are unpleasant, but they are distinct clinical symptoms which are treated in different ways.

What Is Acute Pain?

Acute pain is related to a specific illness, injury or event. This pain is caused by a normal reaction of the nervous system; it helps alert your brain that something is wrong. Acute pain resolves as the illness goes away or the injury heals. It can usually be treated successfully with medications during the healing process.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is a long-term condition in and of itself. When it’s associated with an injury, it outlasts the normal healing time. It may also occur if you develop a chronic disease such as degenerative arthritis or spinal stenosis that persists for an extended period. Some cases of chronic pain are due to a malfunction of the nervous system, and others may be related to psychological factors. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of chronic pain, but it causes great suffering and can seriously affect your quality of life.

Examples of Conditions Causing Acute Pain:

  • Fractures
  • Sprains and strains
  • Infections
  • Soft tissue and skin injuries
  • Cardiovascular events
  • Nerve injury
  • Burns
  • Temporary inflammatory conditions

Examples of Conditions Causing Chronic Pain:

  • Improperly healed bone or joint injury
  • Permanent or ongoing nerve damage (surgical injury, diabetic neuropathy)
  • Spinal disc problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic systemic disease
  • Nerve disease (shingles, multiple sclerosis)
  • Chronic migraine

Different Treatments for Different Pain

Treatment for acute pain is focused on healing or reversing the underlying condition causing the pain. If the pain is caused by infection, for example, it may be treated with antibiotics and pain medications until it resolves. Injuries causing acute pain may require surgery, immobilization and physical therapy.

Patients suffering from chronic pain need a different type of approach. Because the underlying condition or trigger cannot be resolved, relieving the symptom itself becomes the primary goal. Advanced management of chronic pain may involve nerve injections, IDET, radio-frequency treatments, injected steroids, spinal cord stimulation, medications and psychological support.

Get Comprehensive Care at Advanced Pain Care

Whether you are suffering from acute or chronic pain, our goal is the same. We strive to meet your unique needs with a comprehensive pain management approach that lessens your pain and lets you live fully again. Since 2003, our skilled pain specialists have been treating patients in Austin and Central Texas with compassion, care, and cutting edge pain management techniques. Visit us online today to request an appointment, and take the first step to regaining your quality of life.