Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain (With Table)

Pain is a signal that something has occurred, that something is not right with the world. In contrast to acute pain, which lasts less than six months and disappears when the underlying cause is eliminated, chronic pain lasts longer than six months and can persist even after the underlying cause has been eliminated.

Acute Pain vs Chronic Pain

The main difference between Acute pain and Chronic pain is that acute pain is usually associated with a specific, treatable cause. Chronic pain is difficult to diagnose because it can be founded in underlying, “invisible” reasons that are difficult to detect.

Acute pain is defined as pain that occurs suddenly and sharply and lasts shorter than 6 months. Acute pain serves as a warning to your body, informing it that it is in danger and that its health has been endangered. A widespread misconception is that acute pain is minimal and only lasts a short period of time. Acute pain, on the other hand, is a very complicated phenomenon.

In many cases, chronic pain is caused by an underlying condition that surgery may not be able to resolve completely. Pain patients may be subjected to a range of treatments in order to identify one, or a combination of several, that relieves their discomfort.

Comparison Table Between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain

Parameters of ComparisonAcute PainChronic Pain
DurationAcute pain lasts for about six months or so generally.Chronic pain is basically discomfort that goes on for more than six months or so.
After Physical ConditionsAfter the acute discomfort has subsided, you can resume your normal activities.Chronic pain causes stress on the body, resulting in Strain, Moving slowly, Lethargy, Appetite shifts.
Treatment ResponseResponsive to a wide range of treatments. Many treatments have proven ineffective.
Harm Caused by TreatmentsThe majority of treatments are completely safe. Some treatments may be harmful to the patient.
Cause Acute pain has a specific “cause”. In other words, it tells the body to cease hurting. A burn stops you from touching a hot stove, and shin splints slow you down from overtraining.Chronic pain may be caused by something that cannot be identified.

What is Acute Pain?

Acute pain is defined as pain that occurs suddenly, feels sharp, and lasts for less than 6 months after the onset. It serves to warn your body while also alerting you to the fact that your health may be in danger of deteriorating. A widespread misconception is that acute pain is moderate and transient, but in reality, it can be extremely complex and last for long periods.

When something specific happens, such as a fractured bone or a cut or even something as simple as childbirth, acute pain occurs. Some acute pain normally subsides when the affected area has been treated, and it is only transitory and brief in duration. Acute pain, on the other hand, can have long-term consequences and cause significant suffering in some cases.

Therapy for acute pain focuses on addressing the underlying causes of the pain. Patients’ pain levels are typically assessed by doctors using instruments such as the pain rating scale, which helps them obtain a better knowledge of the patient’s situation.

What is Chronic Pain?

If your pain lasts longer than three months, it’s termed chronic or persistent pain, and you’ll probably need some help from your doctor to figure out what’s causing it and how to manage it.

Chronic pain affects roughly one out of every four persons in the United States, according to our estimates. To treat both the physical and psychological impacts of chronic pain, Intermountain relies on experienced primary care clinicians, specialised specialists, and a balanced, interdisciplinary approach:

Recognize the cause. Chronic pain can be caused by a variety of syndromes and illnesses. It’s crucial to figure out what’s causing the discomfort, as well as how to deal with it. Different illnesses necessitate different treatments; for example, what works for a migraine headache may worsen an irritated colon.

Include the patient in the process. We involve patients in their own pain treatment by encouraging them to set goals, participate in planning, and keep track of their progress, because chronic pain affects us all differently.

Keep track of the outcomes and follow up. You should anticipate to see your primary care physician on a frequent basis to monitor your progress, make changes to your treatment plan, and encourage your recovery.

Main Differences Between Acute Pain and Chronic Pain

  1. It is common for acute pain to occur suddenly and be induced by a single event, and it has a sharp quality to it. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is discomfort that persists over time.
  2. Acute pain has a specific cause, which is frequently tissue damage, inflammation, or the onset of a medical condition. Various diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, as well as osteoarthritis, can result in chronic pain. However, it is possible that disease activity is not related to pain levels. Chronic pain may occasionally indicate that disease activity is rising, which can be treated with rest or a change in drug regimen.
  3. Acute pain is defined as pain that lasts for a certain period of time. Chronic pain is often continuing, with no clear time frame for how long it will endure.
  4. Acute pain can be caused by a fractured bone, burns, wounds, or even childbirth. Chronic pain includes headaches, arthritis, cancer, nerve, back, and fibromyalgia.
  5. Acute pain requires a different approach. The symptoms might come and go without warning, making diagnosis difficult. Injections are suitable for those with severe persistent pain. To help alleviate pain, steroid injections are given into the painful area.


Acute and chronic pain are clinically distinct. Trauma or illness causes acute pain, which is connected with skeletal muscle spasms and sympathetic nervous system activity. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is a sickness.

Pain that persists beyond the normal recovery time of a sickness or injury. Chronic pain has no biological function and no end-point. Acute pain therapy aims to treat the underlying cause and stop the nociceptive signals. Chronic pain therapy must be comprehensive and include multiple therapeutic modalities.


  1. https://europepmc.org/article/med/1875958
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025619612011706