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The Two Faces of Pain: Acute and Chronic

Living with pain has a debilitating impact on people. Whether this pain is associated with a previous injury or a result of a disease, it is important to understand where it comes from, how to address it, and how to explain it to those closest to you. Let us explore the two faces of pain: acute and chronic.

Acute pain

Acute pain is pain that lasts less than 3 to 6 months, or pain directly related to an injury or tissue damage. This type of pain consists of that which is associated with small burns, smashing fingers or limbs, labor pains, etc. Acute pain is most often a symptom of injured or diseased tissue – as it heals, the pain would normally recede. The medical treatment thereby focuses on healing the underlying causes, such as torn muscles, etc. The longer and more intense the pain becomes, the more likely it will become a less acute pain and a more likely chronic pain, which then requires more analysis and often more proactive and long-term medical assistance.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain, in most instances, is considered a disease state – it has outlasted the normal time of healing associated with an initial injury and therefore it is often hard to diagnose where it has come from and whether it will have a defined endpoint. This is pain that lasts longer than 6 months. For all these reasons, the diagnosis behind chronic pain may take more time and is more complex, relying on a multidisciplinary approach.

In chronic pain, the nervous system may be sending a pain signal even though there is no ongoing tissue damage. The nervous system itself misfires and creates the pain. In such cases, the pain is the disease rather than a symptom of an injury. Long-term sicknesses that could result in chronic pain include multiple sclerosis, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, degenerative diseases like osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, and cancer.

Continuing conditions that may be the reason for chronic pain include peripheral neuropathy such as carpal tunnel syndrome, sinus headaches, migraine, and ear infections. Initial injuries like a sprain, along with back pain, heel pain, sciatica, and Achilles tendonitis may also become chronic. This pain is certainly much less understood than acute pain, partly due to its complexity.

Capital Pain Institute

At Capitol Pain Institute, we work with you to determine what type of pain you are dealing with and how we can help you create a pain management plan. Dr. Matthew Schocket founded the Capitol Pain Institute to provide progressive and innovative pain management in Austin and central Texas.

The patient experience here at the Capitol Pain Institute begins with a face-to-face consultation with one of our pain management physicians.  During this initial visit, a unique treatment plan is designed based on the specific individual needs of each patient. Your role in this plan is vital as it has to fit you and your needs. With our multidisciplinary approach, we are able to look at rehabilitation programs, psychological therapy, and physical therapy in order to offer you a comprehensive treatment plan. For more information or to arrange a consultation, contact us at [email protected].

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