Acute Pain vs. Chronic Pain
Acute pain is what results when, for example, you sprain your ankle: your nervous system sends you a signal that tells you something is wrong, and you need to stop doing what makes your ankle hurt. Acute pain is like a functioning alarm. You need to limit additional injury to the affected part in order to give it a chance to heal.
Acute pain is defined as pain that occurs for a duration of under roughly 2-3 months. If pain persists from 3-6 months it can be defined as sub-acute before it is classified as chronic. Many factors can also contribute to why pain persists that goes beyond the old idea that acute pain is primarily associated with tissue damage.
Science describes acute pain as:
- An adaptive response(s) of the organism’s protective systems
- A type of pain that motivates the individual to consciously perform protective actions to promote healing and recovery
- Associated with positive adaptions to take measures in preventing re-injury
Acupuncture speeds up the healing process; it reduces inflammation and swelling and also provides pain relief. Generally, for acute pain, frequent treatments over a relatively short period of time are recommended.
Chronic pain is when pain lasts for 6 months or longer and is generally recurring. It can be difficult to treat, as there is rarely a single solution. It can be debilitating and wear at a person’s well-being.
Science describes chronic pain as:
- Maladaptive responses of the organism’s protective systems
- A type of pain experience in which the pain motivates the individual to consciously perform protective actions that limit recovery
- Automatic responses of the organism limit recovery as well
In this case, the pain no longer is protecting us from an external threat as the brain perceives something dangerous is occurring right now in the body. This produces a state of constant stress in a person’s physiology and this stress can reinforce hypersensitive responses to pain that limit recovery. The pain essentially gets stuck at the anatomical level – however, there are ways to manage this!
Most patients who manage their pain successfully approach the process as if it were a jigsaw puzzle with different pieces contributing to the larger whole – their quality of life. There is no one answer for the problem of chronic pain. Acupuncture is a piece of puzzle which may also include medication, exercise, diet, physical therapy, massage, meditation, yoga, and counselling. Every patient’s puzzle is unique, and successful pain management is often the result of painstaking trial and error. The goal of pain management is not to eradicate the pain – that is not realistic for most chronic pain patients – but to support the highest possible quality of life.