Pain is considered medically as being either acute or chronic, but this does not take away the fact that all kinds of pain are unpleasant, unbearable, and challenging to live with. The differentiating factor between Acute and Chronic pain is that while Acute pain has an identifiable cause that can be treated, chronic pain has no specific or visibly diagnosable cause.
People living with acute pain often wonder if there is a chance of it transmuting to chronic pain. This article covers what triggers may cause this and how to prevent it.
Acute Pain and Chronic Pain
Acute pain, by definition, refers to types of sudden pain that occur for less than three months, which then goes away after the primary cause of the pain is treated. It is easy to think that acute pain is milder because it is temporary, but this is mostly not the case. Acute pain can be complex and unbearable as it signifies that the body has been compromised. It may not always be present at all times, making it tricky to diagnose. It can be temporary in some cases but still cause a long-term effect. The root cause of the pain is what treatment focuses on. An example of acute pain could be a broken bone, burns, or postoperative pain after surgery.
When acute pain fails to respond to treatment, it may become chronic. Chronic pain can last for years after the primary cause of the pain (maybe an injury) has healed. However, chronic pain may still be caused by chronic illnesses such as cancer, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and others. Besides the very unbearable pain sufferers feel, there is a tendency for them to experience fatigue, muscle tension, depression, and anxiety, limiting the quality of their daily life. People with chronic pain need both primary care and support from pain specialists. However, only less than 2 percent of people living with chronic pain get to see a pain specialist.
Can Acute Pain Become Chronic?
Studies provide evidence that acute pain transmutes to chronic pain when repeated nerve stimulation occurs, causing pain pathways to get altered. This results in an impaired central nervous system. Here, the nervous system reorganizes itself such that the brain filters most signals through pain. However, the direct link to what shifts acute pain to become chronic is still to be determined. It is very complex because chronic pain is triggered by the combination of not only trauma-related factors (injuries or surgeries) but biological (illness), psychological and social factors. Still, the risk factors for the progression of acute pain to chronic pain have been associated with:
- A history of chronic pain or associating illnesses
- Psychological factors such as anxiety and depression may make patients catastrophize
- Genetic factors
- Trauma and childhood stress
- Poor lifestyle choices with sleeping and substances.
- Lack of exercising after acute pain
Preventing Chronic Pain
While there are no guarantees that these outrightly prevent chronic pain, it is possible to adopt habits and lifestyle changes that help prevent the onset of chronic pain. These include:
- Avoiding strenuous activities that may worsen ill health or aggravate a condition.
- Getting professional treatment for acute pain and sticking with treatment plans as recommended.
- Lifestyle habits to manage stress include adequate rest and sleep, exercise, and proper dieting.
- Specialists recommend cognitive-based therapy to help patients work through acute pain and deal with problems that may increase it.
Lakeshore Pain and Spine Center provides treatments for most types of pain and helps individuals living with pain to feel better and live a fuller life. Get in touch with our specialist today.