What Is the Difference Between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain?

Drawing a line between acute and chronic seems easy at first. An acute injury is clearly diagnosed and treated over the short term, like a broken arm. When the injury resolves, the pain usually goes away.

Chronic pain can be caused by degenerative diseases, such as arthritis due to old injuries, or long-term health conditions that have no cure.

At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations in Maryland, our team of board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists treats a variety of health conditions, including those that cause acute and chronic pain.

Acute vs. chronic pain

How can you tell if pain is acute or chronic? If you suffered a recent injury, such as a sprained ankle, you can expect to experience pain and symptoms like inflammation and swelling and your body to kick into healing mode. Within a few days, your pain should be gone.

If your injury is more severe, and you broke a bone or your appendix ruptured, you’re looking at medical treatment and pain that may last a little longer as you recover. Common examples of acute pain include:

Chronic pain is driven by issues your body and possibly your doctor can’t resolve, meaning pain signals are frequently or even constantly sent to your brain. Such persistent pain stresses your body and may lead to constant inflammation, fatigue, brain fog, depression, and disability. 

Common causes of chronic pain include: 

If you experience chronic pain, you need a pain management doctor to help you figure out the best treatment plan for you.

Diagnosis and treatment 

Perhaps the most significant difference between acute and chronic pain isn’t the nature or cause of the pain but the treatment. 

The cause of acute pain can be diagnosed and treated directly, and most cases simply require time, bed rest, and medication to manage. Even if surgery or injections are required, the outlook is that the pain passes as soon as the issue causing it resolves.

When dealing with chronic pain, prescribing painkillers or physical therapy isn’t enough to resolve the problem. Your doctor needs a multidisciplinary approach to alleviate your symptoms and improve your long-term outlook.

In cases of degenerative illness or disease, the goal is to reduce pain and maintain as much function as possible, focusing on quality of life.

At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, we offer a range of treatments to help with chronic pain of all kinds. Once we determine the cause of your pain, we can put together a multipronged plan to address it. 

Are you struggling with persistent pain? Get answers and learn about your treatment options by calling the location closest to you or requesting an appointment online today. 

Our Maryland offices are in Hyattsville, Gaithersburg, Lanham, Dundalk, Oxon Hill, Rosedale, and Olney, and we have two in Baltimore.

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