The Finite Difference Between Acute and Chronic

I still remember the first thing said at my two-month pain clinic. This could be partly due to the fact I took it twice (due to my father’s passing); however, it is mostly because of the impact that it made on all of us.

“You are not here for us to help you get rid of your pain. If that was possible, you wouldn’t be here. We are here to help you manage that pain and have a better life in spite of it.”

Acute pain is what you get when you break a leg, have a headache or need your appendix removed. It is there to warn you of some danger or issue that needs to be looked after. When you put your hand on something hot you feel burning pain and usually remove it pretty quickly so you do not get severely burned. This is your brain receiving a signal from the hand that something bad is about to happen and the brain gives a pain response for you to get that hand out of there!

This type of pain is finite. It has a beginning and an end to it. Sometimes it takes a long time to find an end, but it will be there eventually.

  • If you stub your toe, it hurts for a short time but will go away and reminds you to watch where you are going, to wear shoes, etc. If the pain continues and/or worsens, you go see if it is broken or sprained.
  • If you have a pain in your right side and is intense you go to the doctor or ER to make sure it isn’t gallbladder, appendix, kidney stones, or anything else that may need immediate treatment.
  • A migraine can tell you that you have eaten something you shouldn’t, you are under too much stress or even that you have a sinus infection (Migraines can also be chronic).
  • A broken limb needs to be put in a cast, and sometimes even operated on, and left to heal. Pain reminds you to not use it until it is better.
  • A baby cries when it is teething or has other pain. Because they can’t tell you what is wrong, their tears let you know they need help.
  • Angina pain is a warning sign that there may be more serious heart problems.

There are many other examples, but I am sure you get the picture.

Chronic pain, however, is not in itself life-threatening.

According to WebMD,

“Doctors often define chronic pain as any pain that lasts for 3 to 6 months or more.” While with acute pain the messages to the brain stop when the danger is over or the problem has healed, those messages keep going causing the pain to continue. Many chronic pain patients (myself included) have to deal with this pain for the rest of their lives.”

There are many conditions that cause or are related to chronic pain.

  • Cancer
  • Arthritis – osteo, rheumatoid, etc.
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Colitis and Chrons, IBD
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Sciatica and other nerve conditions
  • Migraines
  • And many others

Unfortunately for many chronic pain suffers, some doctors have difficulty separating chronic and acute pain. This results in acute conditions not being quickly diagnosed,  being misdiagnosed, or being ignored altogether. It can also cause stereotyping. I have been labeled at the ER more than once as a “drug seeker” when I have no desire for more pain meds. I just want to make sure I don’t have anything seriously wrong.

And I am not alone. After all, chronic conditions are also referred to as “invisible illness”.


Daily Prompt – Finite



9 Replies to “The Finite Difference Between Acute and Chronic”

  1. nailed this one gurl…
    been labeled as a drug seeker you name it …I have tried many different medications but my system like many nothing takes the pain away or even close… by the time I fix dinner just standing I have to go lay down due to so much pain…
    I was seeing a pain dr in Dallas one hell of a drive from here… seen her for at least 15 years and out of the blue I get a letter from her letting me go… no reason or anything… and this was back in oct or dec.. and still can’t find any pain dr around here one reason this old pain dr will not release my records to anyone… for what reason I have no idea… I have always passed my urine test every month or random… never abused my medication… no reason at all…I also lost my rhumy dr since she moved… and I have no idea where those records are at…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So sorry to hear what you are going thru as well…
        omgosh same here… to many illnesses thats what I get told too… can’t find one at all here… so were both in the same damn boat gurl… that is the first thing they ask when I call to ask if the dr is taking new patients they tell me well if you need pain medication then we don’t have any new appointments they don’t give out pain meds… yeah bs too…

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: