Whether a stubbed toe or a broken bone, pain is a normal part of life. It’s our body’s way of telling us that something is not right. Pain can be quick to come and go or last a long time.
But how long is too long? When does it become chronic pain? To answer that, you need to know the difference between the two types of pain: acute and chronic.
Acute pain is your body’s response to an injury. It’s the immediate pain response when you burn your hand, cut your finger, or break a bone. This type of pain typically lasts less than three months, and goes away when the injury heals.
Chronic pain is a longer-lasting pain that persists well after an injury or illness has healed fully. It can also be caused by a medical condition such as arthritis, cancer or fibromyalgia, but it may not have an obvious cause at all. Chronic pain happens as a result of a change in the nervous system that makes it more sensitive to pain. A doctor will usually diagnose any pain that has lasted for over 6 months with no relief as chronic. While your doctor may prescribe medication or therapy to help you manage, the pain does not fully go away.
Chronic pain is very difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic other illnesses. A diagnosis can take months while your doctor tries to figure out the exact cause, and rule out anything else. Here is what you can expect from your doctor during the diagnostic process:
Treatment of your chronic pain can vary, depending on the determined cause. Some commonly prescribed management methods are:
Your doctor will want to see you at least every couple months to assess whether treatment is still working, and if anything needs to be changed or adjusted.
At the Center for Advanced Orthopaedics - MMI Division, we offer specialized care in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Our team of skilled physicians can diagnose and treat your pain in the most minimally invasive way possible. We treat a variety of pain conditions, both acute and chronic. Schedule an appointment today!