Chronic Pain vs Acute Pain: About Chronic Pain

  • Acute pain is an immediate and temporary response. By definition, chronic pain is persistent and recurring.
  • Acute pain serves a vital protective purpose. Chronic pain is out of proportion to the causative factor.
  • Acute pain highlights an issue. Chronic pain is more like a disease in itself.
  • Acute pain reflects a connection between what is felt and what is happening in the body. Chronic pain, for the most part, no longer reflects such a connection.

Persistent & Recurring

In a perfect body, pain occurs only when needed, and turns off when the initial stimulus is withdrawn and the tissue has healed. However, there are certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and low back issues, in which pain is a constant feature and persists for at least three months. This is chronic pain… In addition, there are chronic conditions that cause intermittent pain, such as migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. Because this pain occurs regularly, it is essentially a form of chronic pain and you can treat it as such.  –  Nina Zolotow

Chronic Pain is No Longer a Symptom

Acute pain is protective. Chronic pain is no longer a symptom. It lasts beyond natural healing periods, is out of proportion to the causative factor, accompanied by a sensitized nervous system disallowing natural checks; and serves no useful purpose… Chronic pain is not just a symptom. It takes the form of disease through active processes, in the form of multiple plastic changes that together determine the duration and intensity of the pain. There is central and peripheral sensitization in the nervous system with neuro-chemical and neuro-anatomical components that eventually results in hyperexcitability, recruitment and disinhibition of the pathways, that amplifies and perpetuates chronic pain. Besides the actual nociceptive initiators, there are other strong neuro-endocrine-immunologic components to chronic pain perceptions. The breathing becomes mainly thoracic with lesser excursion of the diaphragm. There is sustained deep muscle tension characterized by repetitive static loads to the muscles and psychological stress, especially of the postural groups of muscles – PubMed Central

Pain Response is Triggered More Often

Chronic pain differs from acute pain in three important ways.

  1. The body can become more sensitive to threat, sending threat signals to the brain even when the threat is minor or nonexistent.
  2. The brain can become more likely to interpret situations as threatening and sensations as painful, producing pain responses that are out or proportion to any real danger.
  3. With repeated pain experiences, the boundaries between many aspects of the pain response—sensation, suffering, and stress—get blurred. This allows any of them to trigger a full-blown protective pain response.”

– Kelly McGonigal PhD

One in Five Adults

Worldwide, 1 in every 5 adults suffers from chronic pain. In the United States, the number is even higher. A recent survey found that more than half of Americans live with chronic or recurring pain that interferes with their mood, sleep, ability to work and enjoyment of life. – Kelly McGonigal

Can Lead to Many Negative Effects

The physical therapist at Yoga for Healthy Aging, Sheri Ser, notes that some of the wide-ranging effects that the presence of chronic pain may have, including shallow and shaky breathing, muscle tension, restricted movement patterns, negative body image, more negative thinking and emotional volatility.

Can Lead to Immune & Nervous System Issues

Pain sufferers endure the highest levels of negative stress, which is the leading cause of breakdown of the immune and nervous systems. – Vicki T Hyatt