Much like the people who experience it, pain comes in all shapes and sizes. A sinus headache, a stubbed toe, a scraped knee or a broken arm—pain is a part of everyday life. But sometimes, that pain can transform into something more.

The day-to-day ouches and injuries we battle throughout our lives cause something known as acute pain.

what is acute pain?

Acute pain is the immediate reaction of your body that lets you know “Hey, that didn’t feel good, and you should stop doing whatever that was!” Though it hurts, this pain is a good thing—it lets your body know that a dangerous activity has just occurred, and you should course correct to avoid doing it in the future.

Acute pain doesn’t have a long shelf life. It’s there in the moment and then subsides not long after the initial incident. As soon as you’re healed, the pain goes away.

But what happens when pain lingers?

That’s where chronic pain comes into play. And there is a big difference between acute and chronic pain.

what is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is lasting. It drags on for weeks, months, even years without signs of stopping.

Most of the time when you injure yourself or have a surgical procedure, you feel pain. But after you heal, you feel fine again. Once in a while, that process goes awry. In response to trauma, the body’s nerves may react in a way that can lead to a different, chronic form of pain called neuropathy.

Some studies have found that approximately 30%–77% of individuals have pain six or more months after experiencing trauma.

Neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, has many potential causes and may manifest in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s caused by the nerve physically being cut, for example, during a traumatic injury or accidentally during a surgical procedure. Neuropathic pain is extremely common among patients who have a cut nerve or had a limb amputated.

However, damage can also result from the nerve being compressed, injured or crushed—even if not actually cut. These types of injuries are most frequently incurred during an accident, a fall, playing sports, or any other activity that can stretch, compress, crush or cut nerves. This includes compression of the nerves due to repetitive stress, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome.

when to seek help

Once you understand the difference between acute pain vs. chronic pain, it will be easier for you to assess next steps. When pain is chronic (lasting more than three months) it’s important to take steps to find its cause and find a solution that lasts.

If you think your chronic pain is the result of a nerve injury, we might be able to help. You may have first experienced nerve pain in the months or years following surgery, trauma or amputation. Like most people, you probably never considered your chronic pain might be the result of nerve damage.

To find out if you’re a candidate for nerve repair, take our quiz.

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