Pain: Short and Long Term

There's a common misconception that certain types of pain are either chronic or acute. You might also have heard that some types of pain, such as nerve damage, are only associated with certain conditions, such as fibromyalgia or complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. The fact is that these terms and categories are often more concerned with defining where the pain comes from rather than how long it lasts. Here are some examples that you can use to help you understand both the terminology and hopefully help you categorize and recognize your pain.


1. Short-term Pain

Pain with a relatively limited duration or pain that doesn't repeat consistently is commonly known as acute or short-term pain. This is most commonly associated with injuries, such as burns, cuts or bruises.

The nervous system contains a system of relays that take information from the body and supply it to the brain. Pain sensors are a major part of this network. Pain receptors are almost everywhere, and their primary job is to let you know when a part of your body is in danger. When this system is working correctly, pain can be a good thing. It lets you know when continuing a certain activity, such as touching an extremely hot object, is likely to severely damage your body.

Those sensations come from problems with organs, muscles or bones, but pain with a relatively short duration can also occur from damage or stress to the nerves themselves. The most familiar example of this for most people is a good knock to the funny bone.

2. Long-term Pain

Similar to the way shorter bursts of pain are more often associated with tissue damage, chronic pain is more commonly caused by damage to the nerves themselves. There are many diseases and conditions that degrade parts of the neurons, leading to misfires that cause pain symptoms with a long duration. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

Conditions affecting your body's tissues or organs, such as tumors, often cause pain over a long period. However, this isn't due to nerve damage: it's because of the growth's presence on other organs. Inflammatory arthritis also causes chronic pain by directly irritating tissues.

In summary, there are many types of pain. Pain caused by damage to tissues, bones or organs can be either acute or chronic. The same is true of pain that's caused by pressure or damage on the nerves themselves. Regardless of the duration of your pain, it's important to understand that it could come from a variety of sources. Try to keep these facts in mind when consulting your physician about your pain. This kind of information can help your doctor make a more accurate diagnosis that can lead to shorter time on the mend.