Acute and chronic pain

Although pain is frustrating and annoying, it is one of the most important communication tools in our body as expressing pain is our bodies’ way of telling us there is something wrong. Even though people experience pain in different ways and there are hundreds of types of pain, they can be categorised to help you get the best treatment and pain relief.


There are 3 different types of pain that you can experience:

  • Acute pain - this is short term pain that starts rapidly but lasts only for a limited time (E.g. headaches and sprains)
  • Chronic pain - this is more long-term and continuous pain that may require a visit to the GP (E.g. pain associated with arthritis)
  • Recurrent pain - this is pain that comes and goes over a period of time (E.g. menstrual cramps)

Most pain is simply categorised by either acute or chronic pain, where acute pain comes on suddenly has a limited duration, chronic pain lasts longer and can be somewhat resistant to medical treatment. Acute pain is frequently caused by damage to bone, tissue, muscle or organs and even though it is short-term, the pain can still cause distress.

Chronic pain on the other hand, is usually associated with a long-term illness or condition and the pain is most likely caused by damaged tissue or nerve damage. Around 70% of people with chronic pain being treated with pain medication, often experience episodes of breakthrough pain. This refers to outbursts of pain that can occur when pain relief is being used. Sometimes it can be spontaneous and cause pain out of the blue, but it can also be caused by certain movements.

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