Acute vs chronic pain: What’s the difference?
Chronic pain affects almost half of all adults, acute pain affects us all¹.
Acute pain is immediate pain that goes away when there is no cause. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is conveniently defined as any pain that lasts for longer than six months, and that which continues even when an illness or injury has been treated.
The Definition of Pain
Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells us when something is wrong, and a part of the body is hurt. It’s an unpleasant sensory experience that can trigger other physical symptoms, such as nausea, or emotional responses, like depression or anger.
The feeling of pain occurs when the nerves start communicating to the brain through the spinal cord. When our nerves experience a pain stimulus, they will send out a signal to our brain to let us know.
What is acute pain?
Acute pain is defined as a short-term pain that starts suddenly and can be attributed to a very clear cause. Acute pain lasts no longer than six months. It tends to start out sharply; intense and often shooting, before improving over time. Once the underlying cause has been treated or removed the acute pain will start to recede. And once the pain has gone, it’s gone. The sufferer can return to life as usual. Examples of acute pain are:
- Broken bones
- Burns or cuts
- Dental work
- Childbirth and labour
- Surgery and post-operative pain
Why do we get acute pain?
Acute pain is generally instructive. For example, if we put our hand in the fire, the message sent to the brain acts as an instruction to our brain to move that hand. Or, if we break our foot, the pain we feel putting pressure on the foot is an instruction to limit movement before the break is properly healed. Pain is the body’s self-defence – a type of damage limitation.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is the term for pain that lasts for six months and longer, even after the original injury or illness has been treated. It may start off as pain from an injury that never quite heals, but chronic pain can equally refer to pain with no apparent cause. Chronic pain can last for years, ranging from mild aches and discomfort to stabbing, severe pain on any given day. Examples are:
Why do we have chronic pain?
While acute pain seems like a simple reaction, the reasons for chronic pain can be more confusing and less easy to pin down. Some chronic pain sufferers experience pain with no obvious cause, or it might show as neuropathic pain as a result of nerve damage after a serious accident or injury.
What is chronic pain syndrome?
Around one in four chronic pain sufferers develop a disorder called Chronic Pain Syndrome2 (CPS) which can cause a range of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. These symptoms can be treated with psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy – which can help promote better lifestyle choices and improve someone’s relationship with pain over the long term.
Using BioWaveGO to Treat Acute and Chronic Pain
Because BioWaveGO is 100% drug-free, without side effects and safe to use (FDA cleared and CE approved), it can be used to successfully treat either acute or chronic pain. BioWaveGO’s high-frequency, electrical currents provide up to eight hours of deep pain relief. With the major difference between acute v chronic pain being timeframe, BioWaveGO may be used to treat chronic pain on a longer-term basis.
- Our smarter pain blocking technology blocks pain directly at the nerve
- Place BioWaveGO’s non-invasive electrodes directly over the pain source
- Turn on your device for a simple treatment session of just 30 minutes
- One session using BioWaveGO’s effective technology provides pain relief for up to eight hours
- BioWave has an immediate effect, but there is also a cumulative effect on the nerve signals so prolonged used might have additional benefits
- Birmingham University: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-mds/haps/projects/HCNA/07HCNA3D2.pdf
- Columbia University Department of Neurology: https://www.columbianeurology.org/neurology/staywell/chronic-pain-syndrome