What is acute pain?
- Acute pain is temporary and related to a specific cause, e.g. a stubbed toe or fracture. Treating the cause usually brings relief.
- PGP pain generally starts off as acute pain, but can become chronic.
What is chronic pain?
- Chronic pain is described as pain that has been present for more than three months, either constantly or intermittently.
Why does chronic pain occur and how does it differ from acute pain?
The reasons why chronic pain develops are not fully understood. The current research suggests that acute pain can cause the areas in your brain and spinal cord that are responsible for feeling pain to become over-stimulated, which leads in some cases to pain that persists, even after the underlying cause for it has been treated.
Research is on-going and there have been some promising developments, especially in the drug treatment of neuropathic pain, with the newer treatments altering chemical pathways in the brain thought to be responsible for maintaining chronic pain.
It is important to deal with acute pain effectively to lessen the likelihood of chronic pain developing.
What are the different types of chronic pain?
Chronic pain can be divided into two main types: neuropathic and non-neuropathic.
Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to nerves and is often described as burning, sharp or shooting. Sensitivity to things which are not usually painful (e.g. light touch) and heightened pain sensation to things which are painful are both common.
Non-neuropathic pain (sometimes called nociceptive pain) is often described as an aching, toothache-like pain, which is localised to the area affected.
In practice it is not quite as clear-cut as this - often both types of pain are present to a certain extent. However, deciding which type of pain is responsible for the majority of your symptoms can be very helpful in deciding which treatments will be most effective for you.
It is important to treat or continue to treat any underlying cause of the pain - this is particularly relevant to PGP.
Also, if planning a pregnancy, or if you are already pregnant or breast-feeding, it is important to let your doctor know because many drugs are not suitable for use in pregnancy or while breast-feeding.