The long and short of pain: Getting answers to all your pain-related conditions causing sudden pain or long standing pain

I am experiencing pain. What does this mean?
Everyone experiences pain at some time. Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Pain can result from a long term illness such as arthritis or from the wear and tear caused by daily activities.

What is acute pain?
Acute pain is sharp pain that starts rapidly. Damage to the bones and muscles in the body may cause acute pain. This type of pain could last for just a moment, in which case it is mild, or it could last for weeks or months causing severe pain. This type of pain may disappear if the root cause of pain is treated. Acute pain generally does not last for more than 6 months. However, if this pain does not lessen, it may progress to chronic pain.

How do I know if the pain I’m experiencing is chronic?
If pain lasts for more than 3 months, which is the normal recovery period for an injury or illness, then it is chronic pain. Chronic pain generally results from damage to the nerves. In many cases, chronic pain may be linked to a long lasting illness such as osteoarthritis. The pain sensations in chronic pain may be more severe and long lasting compared to acute pain.

How can I describe the pain I feel?
The pain sensations that you experience may signify the type of pain or pain related condition you are suffering from. You can use words like sharp, dull, hot, burning, aching and tingling like ‘pins and needles’ or ‘prickling’ to describe your pain. These pain sensations are useful indicators of the cause of pain.

What basic self-care steps can I use for my pain?
You can use and ice pack on the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes, three times a day.  Resting the injured area is important. To reduce swelling, you can keep the affected area elevated and use a compression bandage.

When should I approach a doctor?
In general, if pain lasts longer than expected then it is best to consult a doctor. If you are experiencing extreme muscle weakness, fever or dizziness and troubled breathing, you should seek immediate medical help.

Additionally you should approach a doctor in case of chronic pain when:

  • You experience pain for more than 3 months
  • You are unable to perform activities/hobbies that you otherwise enjoy
  • You are feeling unhappy or depressed because of the pain
  • You are unable to sleep
  • You are experiencing pain even after the illness or injury has healed