Acute vs. Chronic Pain


What is pain?

Pain is a signal from the central nervous system indicating that something is wrong. Pain can actually be helpful; it alerts the brain to take action. Pain is a subjective experience; it differs for each person.

Acute pain

Acute pain is short-term pain that develops suddenly. It is caused by tissue damage, inflammation, or other disease processes. It tends to be sharp or intense before slowly calming. Acute pain can last for a few seconds or occur for up to six months. The purpose of acute pain is to protect the body from serious injury or further injury.

Examples of acute pain include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Broken bones
  • Dental work
  • Cuts
  • Burns
  • Surgery
  • Labor and childbirth

Chronic pain

Chronic pain is any pain that continues for three to six months or after healing would have normally occurred. Pain signals can remain active in the body for months or years. Chronic pain ranges from mild to severe. It can be caused from an injury, a disease, or an unknown origin.

Examples of chronic pain include, but are not limited to, the following: