A woman touching her upper back

Acute or Chronic Pain: Understanding the Difference and Finding Relief

Many people think pain is pain, and there isn’t much difference between one kind and another. However, this isn’t true. Dealing with chronic or acute pain will dramatically impact the person dealing with it and the approaches they can use to find relief. 

So, what is the difference between acute and chronic pain? This article will look at the defining factors and the steps that can be taken to deal with the pain. 

Types of Pain

There are many different types of pain out there. Pain exists in different body parts to different extents and can even feel bad in different ways. 

However, all of these types of pain broadly fit into the categories of acute or chronic. These describe the length of time the pain is around rather than anything specific about it. 

Acute vs. Chronic Pain: Differences

Acute pain occurs over a shorter period of time. Meanwhile, chronic pain can last for a lot longer. 

Acute Pain

Acute pain is something that comes on quickly and usually doesn’t last very long. It will result from something specific and fade away as the cause of the pain is removed. Usually, acute pain lasts for under six months. 

A great example of acute pain is pulling a muscle. In this case, the muscle is pulled because of a specific activity and will hurt for a while. However, it will heal over time and feel normal relatively quickly, especially if some recovery treatment is used. 

Acute pain can occur as a result of many other situations as well. These include general injuries, burns, cuts, broken bones, childbirth, and medical procedures like surgery or dental work. All these types of pain hurt for a while but then fade away. 

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a type of pain that lasts for over six months. It doesn’t necessarily go away as a specific issue is treated but stays around for an indefinite amount of time. However, the exact way it presents and the amount of time it lasts can vary substantially. 

Some forms of chronic pain are always present. The pain caused by nerve damage may be around every time those nerves are flexed or used. Meanwhile, other forms of chronic pain flare up occasionally but aren’t constantly present. Some people deal with migraines for days at a time but have days or even weeks of relief between these bouts of pain. So, chronic pain can be constant or appear at intervals. 

Chronic pain can also extend for many different lengths of time. The main may last for months or can stretch for years. Many chronic pain conditions last for a person’s entire life. 

Chronic pain is also troublesome because it can cause additional problems due to its continued presence. The pain can place a lot of additional stress on the body, which causes the body to experience other problems. These include damage to muscles, more limited mobility, and a general decrease in energy levels. 

The pain can also take an emotional toll. People dealing with constant pain are understandably bothered by it and react accordingly. Many end up developing a form of depression due to the pain. They may also deal with increased anger, anxiety, or even fear of more pain. 

Related: CBD Oil for Back Pain: A Natural Remedy for Discomfort

A woman laying face down receiving a massage for her back pain


Acute vs. Chronic Pain: Relief

Since acute and chronic pain is so different, finding relief from them also differs. 

Acute Pain Relief

In most cases, acute pain relief means dealing with the pain for a period of time that will allow your body to treat the issue. This involves giving your body the best chance of healing itself

For example, when recovering from a surgical procedure, your body will need time to rest. A doctor may have prescribed pain-relief medications in order to lessen the pain during this time. They will likely have told you to take it easy for a few days, as stressing your body during this time can prevent it from healing correctly. So, pain relief, in this instance, involves taking medication and rest. 

The same general approach also applies to less intense acute pain. For example, workouts leave the body feeling sore. In these cases, a topical sports lotion can help relieve the pain. However, the muscles will still need time to heal and build back. 

With this in mind, many treatment approaches use general pain relief medication to mask the pain whenever it presents itself. This can be effective but can also be dangerous when dealing with certain medications. Opioids are effective at treating pain but can be addictive, and taking too much can lead to an overdose. This has led to the opioid crisis and is why more people are seeking natural pain-relief options. 

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Chronic Pain Relief

Chronic pain relief is far more difficult to accomplish than acute pain relief. This is because much less is known or understood about chronic pain. In addition, the specific instance of pain may not even be clear, making it hard to treat the issue. 

Despite this, some commonly used tactics are applied to chronic pain. These will vary on the condition but have some commonalities. 

One approach is to target inflammation. Many different conditions cause inflammation. This inflammation can place pressure on the nerves in the body and cause pain. Treating the inflammation can provide relief. 

This can be done through some medications. However, it can also be done naturally. One study found that CBD and a CBD + THC combination had an inflammatory effect. So, CBD treatments may have an impact on chronic pain that is a result of inflammation. 

Like acute pain, chronic pain is also treated with general pain relief medication. This comes with the same benefits but some increased risks. The risk of pain medication addiction is even greater, as the medication needs to be taken over a longer period of time. So, many people are turning toward natural solutions, like CBD, over opioids

A man in pain holding his knee

Acute or Chronic Pain 

Acute pain is relatively short-term, while chronic pain can last a long time. Their differences change the way they impact people and require different approaches. Understanding this is the first step in dealing with both forms of pain. 

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