Acute Pain vs Chronic Pain


At some point in our lives, we have all experienced the sensation of pain, whether it be short-lived or an ongoing issue. Pain is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage ” (IASP, 2020). 

Pain is not a sensation that is similar to touch, hearing or joint position sense but rather a perception. When we look at the definition of pain, one of the important components is the emotional aspect of it. Without that emotional context, pain would simply not exist.

In addition, another part in the definition of pain that stands out is the potential tissue damage that may occur. For instance, people suffering from fibromyalgia are not constantly being injured throughout the entire day, yet they are in constant and ongoing pain.

Therefore, there does not need to be an injury or physical event for pain to be felt.

To complicate the matter, pain can be divided into the two categories of acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is defined as an “awareness of noxious signalling from recently damaged tissue, complicated by sensitisation in the periphery and within the central nervous system (CNS)” (Global Year Against Acute Pain, October 2010- October 2011).

In contrast, chronic pain is defined as “pain that persists past normal healing time and hence lacks the acute warning function of physiological nociception” (May, 2020).

Despite the word pain being incorporated into these terms, there is a significant difference in the manifestation of each one. For example, two people could sprain their right ankle in a similar fashion.

However, one individual may recover in a few weeks and not have long-term repercussions of the injury, while the other person struggles to overcome the issue over a period of months and years. So, why the difference?  Not only are there local factors when people sustain injuries, but also central implications that impact the recovery of certain individuals.

Stay tuned for our next BLOG where we will elaborate further on the differences between acute and chronic pain, as well as what happens centrally in people who begin to suffer from chronic pain.

If you are in pain, our Ace Certified Practitioners can help. With the right plan, a clear direction forward, empathy, understanding and the right treatment, we will help you remove your pain and live your life to the fullest.


1. May, B. (2020). IASP Updates Classification of Chronic Pain – Clinical Advisor. Retrieved 18 September 2020, from
2. Global Year Against Acute Pain October 2010- October 2011. (2020). Retrieved September 2020, from 2020. IASP’s Proposed New Definition Of Pain Released For Comment – IASP. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 September 2020].