Acute and Chronic Pain



Progressive or Different

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) describes pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” In other words, “it hurts.” You have two types of pain: short-lasting acute and long-lasting chronic.

Criteria Acute Chronic
Duration of Pain Less than 3 months 3 months or longer
Sensation of Pain (see pain scale) 6 and below (≤ 6) Greater than 6 (> 6-7)
Pain Stops After Injury Heals Yes No
Pain Acts as a Healing agent Yes No
Pain Sensors Normalize Yes No

Can Acute Pain Become Chronic Pain?

Yes. But keep in mind, the evidence about the transition from acute to chronic pain is new and still evolving. Current theories propose that a prolonged experience of acute pain in which long-standing changes are seen within and external to the central nervous system (CNS) creates chronic pain, persisting for months or even years. The pain may come and go. Here, the pain does not serve the action of healing. With chronic pain the nervous system may be altered.

Can I Prevent Acute Pain from becoming Chronic Pain?

First and foremost, if you have pain that appears to be lasting longer than usual, go see your physician.
Second, if you’ve just experienced pain, adopt the RICE routine immediately (Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation, above your heart). Then consult your physician. Third, never play through pain (see Playing through Pain).