Compare and Contrast Acute and Chronic Pain

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  • Topic: Pain, Acupuncture, Back pain
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  • Published : March 5, 2013
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Tutor: Judith Hassan

Chirwa
2012
Pain Short Answer Questions

Compare and contrast acute and chronic pain.
Pain is a human experience which can be uncomfortable, with the potential to be horrible. The proper definition of pain is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain, it states that pain is “an unpleasant sensory (shooting, aching or burning) and emotional (frightening, annoying or sickening) experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage”. Since pain is based on individual experience we can start this assignment by comparing acute pain to chronic pain. Pain can be categorised in many ways so knowing the differences between acute and chronic pain is very important to both health professions and patients. Acute pain is believed to be directly associated with tissue injury. The intensity and location of the pain are considered to be an accurate reflection of the tissue problem. However, chronic pain is considered to be pain that lasts longer than normal tissue healing time. Its intensity and location has been deemed to have an inaccurate reflection of the tissue injury. Acute pain has a sharp quality while chronic pain was said to be dull. Unfortunately these findings have not been supported by current scientific understanding but they continue to persist. Acute pain has been defined as pain with the duration of less than 2/3 months, whilst chronic pain last longer than 6 months. Duration between 3 and 6 months are classed as sub-acute. Due to the fact that pain relates directly to tissue health and most tissue injuries resolve in 2/3 months it was believed that pain should also resolve in that same time. However, many other factors impact whether pain persists. A broader understanding of pain is required in order to stop making inaccurate links between pain and tissue damage. There are three vital facts that help us have a better understanding of pain and they are: 1. Pain is an output of our brain.

2. Pain is produced to protect us.
3. The longer we experience ‘uncontrolled’ pain, the more sensitive the pain system becomes. Whenever we feel pain, our brain has already decided that something dangerous is happening and that protective action is necessary.  When pain persists, the systems learn to protect us more. The nervous systems become wound-up. The nerves fire more easily than ever before, sending greater volume of signals to the brain, which in turn is interpreting everything from a state of hypervigilance. Based on information from pain science we could describe acute pain as: * an adaptive response of the organism’s protective systems, * in which the experience of pain motivates the individual to consciously perform protective actions that promote healing and recovery, * and in which the autonomic responses of the organism promote healing and recovery. In other words, in acute pain, the pain is serving an adaptive purpose. It is motivating us to make decisions and take actions that will keep us from re-injury and help our tissues heal. It is also creating a situation inside the body whereby physiological processes are promoting healing and creating positive adaptation to the pain. Chronic pain then could be described as follows:

* maladaptive responses of the organism’s protective systems, * in which the experience of pain motivates the individual to consciously perform protective actions that limit recovery, * and in which the automatic responses of the organism also limit recovery. In other words, the pain is no longer protecting us from imminent danger.  The protective systems are providing an experience of something very dangerous occurring, right now, in the body. This produces a state of stress in the individual and in their physiology, and this stress reinforces the hypersensitive responses that in turn limit recovery. Chronic pain does not mean that there is nothing wrong. Something within...
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