Breaking the Pain Chain®
Breaking the Pain Chain®
Understanding Pain

Types of Pain

Pain is your body’s alarm system sending a message that something is wrong – either a physical injury or with the way your nervous system interprets pain signals. There are two types of pain: acute and chronic.

Acute Pain

Acute pain occurs in response to an infection, injury or disease. It may be caused, for example, by a burn, muscle sprain, gout attack, surgery, an infected tooth or a kidney stone. This is the type of pain your body uses every day to warn and protect you. You may also have recurring bouts of acute pain, such as with an arthritis flare.

Acute pain may be mild or severe and lasts for a fairly short time (from a few seconds to weeks). You may describe this pain as sharp, shooting, stabbing, throbbing or stinging. It usually goes away when the cause of the pain is fixed. Acute pain that doesn’t get better can become chronic pain.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can occur daily and continue for months or even years. It's usually described as pain lasting three months or more. Chronic pain can be mild to severe, and may come and go or be constant. You may describe this pain as dull, throbbing, burning or aching.

In some cases, acute pain can become chronic if an injury doesn't heal completely, an infection persists or damage in nerves or organs is not treated. Having a form of arthritis or related condition can leave you in chronic pain due to recurring inflammation, weakened or damaged joints, or problems with your musculoskeletal system. If your pain processing system doesn't work properly, this can cause chronic pain even without any sign of injury or illness.

Chronic pain can be difficult to ease. Some doctors believe that over time, chronic pain can become its own disease, making it even more challenging to treat. It’s important for you to be in charge of your care and take an active role in developing a management plan with your doctor and health-care team. Your disease and pain-management plan should include getting a proper diagnosis, treating the disease causing your pain and controlling your pain symptoms.

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