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Chronic Pain vs. Acute Pain: Management & Relief Tips

Understanding the important differences, and treatment tips for each.

Nearly 50 million Americans experience either chronic or acute pain symptoms every day.1 That can be chronic pain like that related to things like old injuries, or acute pain like those related to causes such as recent medical procedures. If you think you're one of those millions of pain sufferers, it's important to know if you're experiencing chronic pain, acute pain, or both. Either way, there are ways you can manage your pain so you can live your life to its fullest.

Basics of Chronic Pain:

  • 1. Duration: Chronic pain is ongoing, continuous pain that lasts more than three to six months.
  • 2. Symptoms: Chronic pain can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including headaches, joint pain, lower back pain, or broader neurogenic pain.2
  • 3. Causes: Chronic pain can stem from many factors including old injuries or surgeries, or one or more underlying disease or health conditions, like osteoarthritis ; carpal tunnel syndrome; or problems with the nervous system

Basics of Acute Pain:

  • 1. Duration: Acute pain is severe or sudden pain that usually lasts no longer than six months, and resolves when a specific underlying injury or condition is resolved.3
  • 2. Symptoms: Acute pain is typically sharp, shooting pain in a specific region of the body4.
  • 3. Causes: Acute pain is triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and a need to take care of yourself2, and you're likely to know where and why you're experiencing that pain - such as after scraping or burning yourself, or during recovery from a recent surgery.5

Hello, pain relief

The first step in addressing your chronic or acute pain should be consulting a doctor, who can help diagnose and treat any underlying causes, and who may recommend prescription medications or over-the-counter pain relievers. And while pain has the ability to interfere with your favorite daily activities, it is also something you can manage with your doctor's prescribed treatments, over-the-counter solutions, as well as complementary therapies (which you should also consult your doctor about), such as these.

  • 1. Massage: Research shows that massage is an effective, low-risk way to temporarily relieve pain. To experience continuing benefits, you need to keep getting massages.6
  • 2. Acupuncture: A practice of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture for pain management has only recently begun to be understood by the Western medical community. Scientific evidence suggests that acupuncture can help relieve pain related to osteoarthritis and lower back pain. It may also help to reduce the frequency of migraines and the severity of tension headaches.7
  • 3. Yoga: In addition to being a relaxing and effective method for increasing flexibility and strength, research indicates that yoga can also help reduce pain and improve function.8
  • 4. Over-the-counter pain solutions: Gels, ointments, creams or patches like these from BENGAY can also help to temporarily relieve pain symptoms.

Knowledge is power, so understanding the differences between chronic and acute pain can help you to manage your own pain symptoms, so that you can live a full and happy life. And remember that if you have unexpected pain or pain that lasts longer than reasonably expected, consult your doctor right away.

Happy living.

[1] http://americanpainsociety.org/about-us/press-room/nih-study-shows-prevalence-of-chronic-or-severe-pain-in-u-s-adults
[2] https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Chronic-Pain-Information-Page
[3] https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm
[4] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12051-acute-vs-chronic-pain
[5] https://www.mayoclinic.org/understanding-pain/art-20208632
[6] https://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm
[7] https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction
[8] https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm