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Explore The Differences Of Acute And Chronic Pain

Authored by Dr. Thomas Nguyen, MD. March 4, 2016


We’ve all been there – you bend your back suddenly and a familiar twinge rises to the surface. Although pain is a normal part of life, at what point does it need to be addressed by a doctor? Pain can be placed into two categories: acute and chronic. The distinction between the two can mean the difference between resting on the couch for a few days and severe pain lasting for years.


Acute pain is the body’s normal response to a harmful stimulus. When you touch a hot surface, for example, your body reacts by activating pain receptors which alert you to immediately pull your hand away. Acute pain typically lasts less than three to six months and gradually resolves as the injured tissues heal. When the injury heals, the pain stops.


Chronic pain is unique in that the pain itself becomes a disease. In fact, the psychological effects of chronic pain are often times just as significant as the painful physical condition itself. Chronic pain can last for months, even years, and occurs when pain persists even after the injury has healed. Additionally, one’s nervous system is sometimes altered making the individual more sensitive to pain. This may result in more severe, longer lasting painful sensations.


It is very important to develop coping skills. Some people are able to live a relatively healthy lifestyle despite the pain, and others are unable to do so. It is very important to understand that you are not alone.  In order to deal with chronic pain, these are a few tips to keep in mind.

1.    Exercise – Although this may be difficult, under the guidance of a certified physical therapist, a proper home exercise regimen can be tailored to an individual.

2.    Eat healthy – Proper nutrition can add to a healthy life-style in general.

3.    Learn to relax – Take some time to relax completely. Meditation and yoga are great modalities to help one relax, especially while listening to your favorite peaceful music.

4.    Get a proper night’s sleep – Sleep disturbance is very common amongst patients with chronic pain. It is important to try to relax, to not eat heavy meals prior to going to bed, and to wind down after a long day.

5.    Try alternative treatments – Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS units)massage therapyacupuncture, and other modalities are often useful.

Pain psychologists and counselors can be beneficial for most patients with chronic pain. Although narcotics are very useful in treating many painful conditions, they are only part of treating chronic pain. It is important to realize that medications do not cure pain, but rather are there to allow one to function better than they would without medications.

Speak with your doctor or pain specialist if you are having a hard time coping with chronic pain. If chronic pain starts affecting your personal life and self image, or interfering with your work and relationships, it is important to seek the proper medical assistance.


Virginia Spine Institute’s reputation is unmatched as a world-renowned luxury destination in spinal healthcare, dedicated to providing an elevated level of concierge care for those suffering from neck and back conditions. For three decades, their proven methods have led them to dramatically improving the quality of life for over 100,000 patients, from 32 countries.


People seek care from Virginia Spine Institute because of their elite team of board-certified spine-specialized physicians offering unique approaches to safe and effective back and neck pain relief. As one of the few centers that begin treatment with non-surgical options before recommending surgery, 90% of their patients get better without spine surgery. Through a comprehensive model, Virginia Spine Institute is able to offer regenerative medicine, non-operative treatments, minimally-invasive spine surgery, and physical therapy through their team of spine specialists.


The team’s dedication to detail and patient success is a shining light in the field of spinal healthcare. As pioneers and leaders in this field, they have also accomplished many of the world’s firsts in spine surgery by using modern treatments and cutting-edge technology not offered anywhere else.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Thomas Nguyen, MD.

Reviewed by: Dr. Thomas Nguyen, MD.

About The Author

Dr. Thomas Nguyen, MD

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