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What is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain?

What is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain?

What is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain?

In clinical practice, your doctor and therapist will frequently refer to pain as either acute or chronic, but what does this really mean?  Acute Pain by definition describes a sensation that is intense and sharp in quality.  Its onset can be sudden, rapid and can quickly escalate.  Patients in acute pain are very motivated to do something about it.  It is hard to ignore acute pain and it can very easily take over your life and seriously interfere with your ability to work, exercise and even relax.  The good news is that when it comes to musculoskeletal pain, the acute period is usually short lived.  The bad news is that is acute pain becomes chronic pain very often.

Why does Acute Pain often become Chronic Pain?

Acute pain is so intense that it demands that something be done to alleviate it.  Intervention can take the form of medication, intense therapy, decrease or complete cessation of any aggravating factor or activity.  Usually acute pain can be managed, handled and may even appear to abate in the short term. However, more often than not, when the underlying cause of the pain is not properly diagnosed and managed, intervention only succeeds in taking the acute “edge” off the pain.  Acute pain can be said to have progressed to a chronic pain situation when the patient suffers residual pain and dysfunction for 6 months or more.  Chronic pain does not always present the same way in all sufferers.  Some patients will report pain that may be constant but less intense in magnitude than that which was experienced in the early acute pain phase.  Some patients describe a type of pain and level of dysfunction that varies in intensity from day to day but never really goes away.   Any number of things can bring the pain back into sharp focus.  Sometimes, the pain can diminish and almost disappear for days or even weeks, but will return despite best efforts.  If the underlying cause of the pain is not fully addressed, or the patient has not fully healed and the cycle of damage and repair continues to play itself out over and over again, the situation will become a Chronic Pain syndrome.

Why do so many sufferers of Chronic Pain think that it is worse than Acute Pain?

To be sure, Acute Pain is intense, but Chronic Pain can feel like it’s been there forever and just never goes away.  It wears you down and affects your life in a more pervasive way.  Chronic pain has both a physical and psychological component, and both of these components must be addressed if treatment is to be effective.

What can be done to treat Chronic Pain?

It can be quite a challenge to obtain effective treatment for Chronic Pain.  For starters, chronic pain has to be recognized for what it is.  A thorough assessment and review of your case is essential in order to create a treatment plan that incorporates a three pronged program of care aimed at delivery of therapy for mind and body.  A chronic pain program provides medicinal intervention like a course of anti-inflammatory or pain medication injections to break the pain cycle.  This medication should always be offered along with a personalized physical rehabilitation program aimed at improving strength, mobility and endurance.  The third component of an effective chronic pain management program is psychological counselling which addresses the fear of pain, hurt vs, harm, anxiety and depression that often accompanies chronic pain.  Therapists that specialize in the treatment of chronic pain understand the feelings of helplessness and debilitation brought on by constant pain and work with the rehab team to help restore you to optimal wellness.  Patients attending CanadaPhysio’s Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program benefit from our ability to provide all three co-ordinated services under one roof.  The Chronic Pain patient receives treatment from medical doctors, physiotherapists and psychologists all aimed at addressing the three underlying components of chronic pain.  All 3 services are aimed at providing the chronic pain patient with supportive, intensive and effective treatment with optimal outcomes.  All 3 services are integrated and personalized for maximum effectiveness. 

CanadaPhysio is here to help. With many locations to serve your needs across Ontario, in Toronto, Scarborough, Whitby, Mississauga and London, our trained professionals can help you get back on track.

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