If you’re experiencing pain and are trying to decide how best to treat it, you might not be aware that it could be one of two types.

You could be suffering from either acute or chronic pain. And there’s a significant difference between the two.

So, acute vs chronic pain – what differentiates each condition, and how can you decipher which you have?




What is pain, precisely?

It is felt in a local or general sense when a person experiences a single or more complex bodily sensation that hurts.

This can be physical, or of course, may extend to mental or emotional pain. It is usually linked to an injury or ailment.

Pain is where nerve endings or tissue may be damaged and usually will require some sort of medical treatment or pain relief, leading someone to seek advice from pain management experts. It is an initial indication in a person that something is not quite right in the area they are feeling the pain.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain: The Differences Explained

Acute vs Chronic Pain

The two types of pain are differentiated by the severity of the discomfort.

  • Acute Pain

This is the milder of the two. It may even be a fleeting, one-off painful sensation. But it can also be much more uncomfortable and last a long time. Acute pain can even last months.

Any longer than six months, however, means the pain is chronic.

Acute pain tends to be a sudden pain, even if this then continues for a while. It is more of a striking sensation – a sharp or shooting type of pain.

This will disappear once the source of the pain is tended to, healed, or treated. Acute pain is not a forever pain, despite the fact that it can be very uncomfortable and linger after it has first appeared.

Potential causes of acute pain might include getting cut by a knife, burning yourself, having dental work carried out, or breaking a bone. Childbirth is an example of acute pain as it is temporary.

  • Chronic Pain

When pain lasts longer than six months and is an ongoing condition, it is classified as chronic.

The difference between acute vs chronic pain is that the latter can go on and on. It can be a condition someone has to live with and manage for their entire life.

It can be brought on by some of the injuries that cause acute pain – such as broken bones – but it is more severe in that the pain is longstanding. While breaking a bone and having acute pain means you could likely heal within six months, this is not the case with chronic pain. Chronic pain lingers even when you have healed.

It can also be used to describe the pain you might feel with conditions that have not been provoked by injuries – such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, localized back pain, or if you suffer from migraines.

Chronic pain can also lead to further stress on muscles and affect someone’s mobility, energy levels, appetite, or emotional state. Chronic pain can often lead to depression, fear, anger, or anxiety.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain: The Differences Explained

Helping Yourself

Are you still wondering about the differences between acute vs chronic pain? Whether you are concerned about acute or chronic pain, it’s always important to seek professional medical advice from a doctor to ensure you are treating it correctly.

Sometimes, with both types, you can nourish your lifestyle to be healthier and help your pain by helping yourself – as we write about on this site.


Have you or a loved one suffered from chronic or acute pain?

Share your thoughts and comment below with any questions or tips for our community.


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