Pain can be divided into two categories according to their duration, namely: acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain lasts for a couple of seconds to less than six months. It may resolve by itself or need medical attention depending on the origin of pain. The pain you feel when you accidentally touch a hot pan is an acute pain and doesn't necessarily need to be rushed to the ER. The pain you feel when your appendix is inflamed, requiring surgery (appendectomy), is also acute pain. Without surgical intervention, this can be fatal to one's health and may even cause death once appendix is ruptured.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, is pain that lasts longer than six months. Others also define it as pain that lasts longer than the expected length of treatment time. Pain that is chronic may be classified as nociceptive or neuropathic (and they can be acute too). Nociceptive pain is further sub-divided into somatic and visceral pain. Nociceptive pain is generally a sensation that originates from the tissues of the body.
It is called somatic when it originates from the skin, muscles, ligaments, bones, tendons, fasciae, and blood vessels. They are easily localized by the brain since this kind of pain occurs more often (as acute pain). Specific examples of chronic somatic pain include chronic back pain syndrome, arthritic pain, and fibromyalgia. Headaches can also become chronic.
Pain originating from the organs such as the liver, heart, kidneys, pancreas, and the like is called visceral pain. Unlike somatic pain, this kind is harder to pinpoint. This is because your brain does not experience having pain in the organs that often, and is not used to it. The pain may sometimes be referred. This means that the pain may be felt elsewhere in the body and not at the specific site of injury or damage. An excellent example is with a liver or gallbladder affectation; the pain may be felt at the right tip of the scapular region. When the lungs are also affected, pain may sometimes present itself at the left shoulder.
Neuropathic pain originates from the nerves. They may be caused by a malfunction, malformation in the structure, or damage and irritation of and to the nerves. Neuropathic pain is divided according to its origin: peripheral and central. The sensation is generally described as having burning, tingling, pins and needles, or electrical.
Pain management in chronic pain is evidently more sophisticated than treatment of acute pain. Management may require coordination with several medical personnel to effectively alleviate the pain and enable the sufferer to function normally or as close to normal as possible. The pain management team may be composed of the pain doctor, physiotherapist, clinical psychologist, nursing practitioners, and occupational therapist.
It requires an interdisciplinary approach since long-term pain can have other effects such as changes in behavior. The patient may become irritable at times, feel anxious and may even advance to depression. Cognitive effects may include forgetfulness, difficulty finishing tasks, lack of concentration, and minor accidents, all of which might result to constraints in cognitive-based treatments.
Often, over-the-counter drugs are not enough to cause comfort in a chronic pain sufferer. Prescription drugs such as tramadol and other narcotics to treat moderate to severe pain are required. Other medications that are not categorized as analgesics are also prescribed by doctors for chronic pain. They may include anticonvulsants, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and placebos in the treatment. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.