How long have you been experiencing pain? That is a question every doctor should ask the patient. It gives the doctor a baseline of where the patient is and how much care is required to get them better. In order to do that, we need to distinguish the difference between acute pain and chronic pain, and we will do just that in this week’s blog. We will finish this week’s content explaining exactly what we can do to help.

What is Inflammation?

Before we discuss the difference between acute pain and chronic pain, we first must distinguish what the term inflammation means. Inflammation is when the body encounters an offending agent such as a virus, bacteria, toxic chemical, or suffers an injury and the immune system sends out inflammatory cells and substances called cytokines that stimulate more inflammatory cells. These cells begin an inflammatory response to trap bacteria and other offending agents to start healing injured tissue. This can result in pain, swelling, bruising, and/or redness.

In easier terms, anything that enters the body or any trauma that we experience causes inflammation. It could be from something as small as pricking your finger or something more severe such as a car accident. Another fact is that inflammation affects body systems that we cannot see. Good examples include arthritis, autoimmune conditions, infections, etc. 

What is Acute Pain?

Acute pain happens suddenly, starts out sharp or intense, and serves as a warning sign of disease or threat to the body. It is caused by injury, surgery, illness, trauma, or painful medical procedures and generally can last from a few minutes to approximately 3-6 months. A time frame for acute pain is difficult to determine because as long as inflammation is present, it is considered an acute condition. Depending what causes inflammation often determines how long someone will be in pain. For example, if someone cuts a finger, the individual may only have pain for a few minutes or up to a few days. Someone who was in a car accident may experience pain from a few days up to several months depending on the severity of the accident.

Acute pain usually disappears whenever the underlying cause is treated or healed. In acute situations, inflammation floods into the injured area and begins the healing process. Acute pain should never be ignored because it can progressively worsen, leading to chronic pain or life-threatening conditions. 

What is Chronic Pain?

Pain is considered chronic when acute pain is prolonged to more than usually 3-6 months. Sensation of pain typically doesn’t feel any different than acute pain, but furthermore, chronic pain is persistently present almost every day. Pain can be described as a constant ache or stiffness that never goes away and nothing helps with relief. 

Chronic pain can occur due to several reasons, including musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve damage, inflammation and psychological factors such as anxiety or depression. It can also result from underlying medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

Chronic pain can affect individuals from a psychological standpoint causing emotional distress due to prolonged pain and the inability to find relief. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical attention if persistent pain lasts beyond the expected healing time of an injury. Early intervention and treatment can help manage chronic pain and improve the quality of life.

What Can We Do To Help?

There are many interventions that individuals can take for pain relief whether it’s medications, injections, surgery, massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, etc. Clearly, if you’re walking into our office with a severe infection or underlying condition, you’re in the wrong place. If you’re walking into our office with back pain, neck pain, nerve interference, and/or even organ malfunction, we can help. 

It is our job to find the underlying condition causing inflammation. Conducting a neurological, orthopedic examination and performing a series of x-rays in the region of complaint are absolutely crucial so that we can provide the best course of treatment whether it is spinal manipulation, non-surgical spinal decompression, or neuropathy management.   

Whether it is an acute or chronic condition, we can help. Every patient who walks in the door has some sort of inflammation that needs addressed. We treat either state of condition the same way. The only difference is that someone in a chronic state will require a longer treatment plan versus someone in an acute state. If you have any questions about acute pain and chronic pain, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and checkout our website at for more information. 

Yours In Health,

Larry E. Wilkins, DC

Brian M. Steinert, DC