What’s the Difference Between Chronic & Acute Pain?

The difference between acute and chronic pain is that acute pain happens when the body receives some kind of physical trauma (you stub your toe for example) and it sends a message from the brain that there is a problem that needs to be taken care of. The pain is called nociceptive pain and it usually subsides once you have taken care of the immediate problem and healing has started to occur.

If the physical shock to the body is really intense (for example, a person who is attacked and brutally beaten) the body will actually protect the person from an extreme level of pain by creating chemicals that block the pain sensation. A person who has survived a brutal attack or accident, for instance, often states that they felt numb during the experience itself and the pain sensations didn’t come until later.

In contrast, chronic pain has a strong emotional component to it. Chronic pain is pain that lasts for longer than six months. While it is usually brought on by an initial physical trauma, the pain lasts a lot longer than the trauma that induced it. In fact chronic pain can continue for years! I liken it to an alarm bell that went off to send a warning message and has gotten stuck in the “on” position, even though the warning no longer needs to be sent.

When I first bought my car, the alarm system was set slightly wrongly to a very sensitive position, so that the least little thing would set off the alarm and it would continue going off for hours and hours. That resembles the experience of a person with chronic pain. Their body is sending an intense alarm message that is no longer appropriate to the actual situation.

Perhaps because of the fact that there is now a disconnect between the physical trauma and the body’s somatic experience, chronic pain becomes a disorder all on its own, now known as Chronic Pain Syndrome or Disorder. As explained earlier, the difference between acute and chronic pain is that there is a strong emotional component to a person’s experience of chronic pain.

A person with chronic pain may have thoughts such as: “Why is this happening to me?”; “Will this pain ever stop?” or “What did I do to deserve this pain?” They may feel intensely angry or sad or afraid. Their physical pain starts to become linked to all of these aspects of psychological pain, and now we really have a problem!

I genuinely believe that chronic pain cannot be tackled just by medical interventions that rely on the physical aspects, such as surgeries, injections, TENS units or pain-relieving drugs. At best, these can supply a temporary band-aid but the pain always returns. The only way to really rid somebody of this disabling pain, once it has become chronic, is to tackle the emotional aspects underlying the physical sensation of pain. There are many ways to do this, including hypnotherapy, biofeedback, psychotherapy, guided imagery, yoga and spiritual practices, relaxation etc. etc.

The main message that a chronic pain sufferer needs to hear is that their pain experience is within their control. That will empower them to find and use the tools that work for them in relieving their pain. Consider using a TENS Machine Hire for relieve chronic and acute pain.

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