The concept of pain can be described in many ways. In medical terms, it is defined as an unpleasant feeling that is conveyed to the brain by sensory neurons throughout the body. Pain can be on a sliding scale of intensity. It can also be interpreted differently by different people, depending on their personal pain tolerance. Pain scales are usually requested in a subjective way so doctors can get a sense of each person’s perception of it.
Pain comes in two basic forms – acute and chronic. Acute is pain that comes on quickly and is relatively short-lived. Something specific must be the cause, such as an accident or medical procedure. On the pain scale, people describe it as sharp, sudden, and strong in intensity. Once the underlying cause of the pain is gone, acute pain also disappears. Some other examples of acute pain include chest pains from a coughing episode, broken bones, dental procedures, burns, cuts, and labor and childbirth.
A chronic condition, by contrast, is a long-developing type of pain. This usually takes a while to develop, such as osteoporosis or asthma but it is also possible to develop chronic pain from an accident or injury, especially if neck or back injuries occur. The majority of chronic conditions are health- or disease-related. Chronic is usually defined as pain lasting more than a few months without subsiding. It also can remain long after the original cause of the pain has diminished. This is because some pain signals can remain active throughout the nervous system for years. The leading causes of death and disability in the United States are chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Very rarely, an acute condition can develop into a chronic one. This happens sometimes if the underlying cause is untreated or ignored, leaving it to develop into something more serious. Cancer is an example of an acute pain that could turn into a chronic condition. In addition, there are some chronic conditions that can lead to acute pain, such as osteoporosis causing a broken bone.
Treatments for acute and chronic pain sometimes overlap because medication is used to alleviate most types of suffering. In addition, if chronic pain is incurable, it can still be treated through physical therapy and surgery, along with a doctor-guided exercise and diet regimen. In cases like type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.