In dealing with injury and pain, a lot of people are not receiving the right treatment because they do not describe the pain they feel correctly to their doctor. It may not seem like a big deal – pain is pain, after all – but it is. There are different kinds of pain, and each of them has a different underlying cause.

Basically there are two types of pain: acute and chronic. There is no telling which one of them is worse than the other, because there is equality among sufferers, but while one type will go away in a rather simple manner, the other will stick around for the long term.

So, without prolonging the suspense, here is what you need to know about acute pain and chronic pain so that you can tell the doctor exactly how bad it hurts.

Acute Pain


Acute pain has its onset right after an accident or injury. It is the way your body tells you that something was hurt and you should seek treatment. Acute pain will appear after a sprain, after you fall down, or after your muscles and ligaments are inflamed. You cannot ignore this type of pain, as it prevents you from exercising further and, in some cases, even walking properly.

Direct and Associated Symptoms

Acute pain is sharp, sudden and increases in intensity over a short period of time. It may be accompanied by:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • The painful area feeling warmer than the rest

There is not a specific intensity of acute pain – for example, if you misstep and fall down, pain will be bearable; however if you suffer a fracture or a sprain, it can exceed your tolerance threshold.

Treatment and Prognosis

Acute pain is treated with ice packs and over-the-counter pain medication. For professional athletes, doctors will typically prescribe NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to avoid any future problems during random drug testing.

Acute pain will usually go away in a few weeks (in case of serious injuries). It is actually one of the first important signs of recovery – the disappearance of pain in the injured area.

Chronic Pain


Chronic pain is the sign of an incompletely cured injury. It may be caused, for example, by a faulty alignment of the bones after a fracture or a sprain, or by the constant pressure applied on the nerve. It can be caused by internal scar tissue which has not healed completely.

Direct and Associated Symptoms

Chronic pain is continuous, over a long period of time (months, even years). It is either constant or intermittent, and it takes a great toll on the sufferer’s life. Over time, people with chronic pain experience:

  • Reduced mobility or stiffness in the affected area
  • Lack of energy and zest for life
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

The most common types of chronic pain are headaches, lower back pain, arthritic pain and psychogenic pain (pain which is not caused by physical injury in the past, but as a result of ongoing psychological stress and duress).

Treatment and Prognosis

Unfortunately, pain medication does not help in the case of chronic pain. People who do not realise that their pain is no longer acute but chronic, may end up developing an addiction to pain medication. The correct treatment of chronic pain is multi-disciplinary, and may include massage, kinesiotherapy, acupuncture, relaxation techniques and even psychological counselling.

As you can see, there are two completely different approaches in treating these two types of pain. This is why it is important to know what kind of pain you suffer from, so that you receive adequate treatment for it.