Does Chronic Pain Feel Different Than Acute Pain?

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Question: Does Chronic Pain Feel Different Than Acute Pain?

Answer: Acute pain begins suddenly, tempers after an expected period, and tends to be described in terms of physical pain, with words such as sharp, dull, stabbing, biting and so on. Chronic pain, however, is consistent and tends to be described with words that allude to underlying feelings about that pain.

For example, people with fibromyalgia tend to report more emotional words when describing their pain, such as “wretched” or “vicious.” Seniors with chronic pain report more pain locations and use more descriptor words than those with acute pain.

In general, people with chronic pain tend to use words that indicate worry and emotional strain when rating their pain.

Why the difference? Pain is not only a physical experience, but a psychological one as well. People with chronic pain tend to experience more of this psychological factor than those with acute pain.

People with chronic pain tend to worry more about their pain, and are also more prone to conditions like depression and anxiety. Emotional states can greatly influence the way pain is felt, and can even interfere with the brain’s natural pain-inhibiting mechanisms. While it’s true that many people with acute pain may also have emotional trauma, it generally subsides once pain is under control. When you have chronic pain, however, the feeling persists. This can greatly influence the way pain is felt and interpreted, and how you responded to it.

While the physical components of acute pain and chronic pain may be similar, the psychological components often make chronic pain a more intense and troubling experience.

This is why chronic pain feels different than acute pain.


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