Dr. J. Fred Stoner Explains the Difference Between Chronic and Acute Pain

Dr. J. Fred Stoner
Mar 20 · 3 min read

It’s understood that pain is defined as a highly unpleasant physical sensation causing suffering and discomfort. However, to effectively treat pain in the realm of pathology, an important distinction is made between chronic and acute pain. Acute pain is shorter-term, standard pain that is directly related to illness or physical injury such as a sprained ankle or broken arm. Conversely, chronic pain is a long term, ongoing sensation that persists when it should not — causing continued suffering with no concrete, identifiable cause. To further clarify and define these terms, medical physician Dr. J. Fred Stoner explains the differentiating factors between acute and chronic pain.

Causes of Pain

One of the most prominent differences between chronic pain and acute pain is their underlying causes. Acute pain — the kind experienced when an individual breaks an arm, steps on a thumb tack, or pinches a finger in the door — has a generally identifiable source. In this sense, acute pain is often described by medical professionals as a “message with a cause”. To illustrate this expression, Dr. J. Fred Stoner uses the example of the pain experienced when an individual touches a hot stove. This pain sends a meaningful message to the body, alerting the individual that harm is happening. Because acute pain generally has a clear, purposeful cause, it is much simpler to treat.

Chronic pain, however, is a message without a cause. It is an ongoing, continuous pain that is present regardless of whether harm or damage is present. With no obvious underlying source, treatments for chronic pain must focus entirely on relief and pain management rather than remedying an identifiable cause.

Durations of Acute and Chronic Pain

Dr. J. Fred Stoner states that another differentiating factor between acute and chronic pain is the pain’s duration. Acute pain is generally defined as lasting for less than six weeks (or as long as the ailment that is causing it). Conversely, chronic pain is an ongoing affliction that lasts 12 weeks or more, and often persists long after all possible sources have been treated and/or cured. Because of its relentless, perpetual nature, chronic pain affects individuals differently than acute pain, and can cause serious destruction in regards to overall quality of life.

Treatment Differences in Chronic and Acute Pain

Many of the same treatment methods are used for chronic and acute pain, but with varying degrees of success. For example, “strong medications” such as morphine are effective in treating acute pain, but unrealistic and ineffective when used to ease the symptoms of chronic pain.

The key to this varying response lies in the nature of pain medications themselves. Medications used to treat pain work by affecting the body’s receptors. However, because chronic pain is ongoing, it changes the chemistry of the nervous system, making pain medications that may have previously been effective (such as morphine or other non-narcotic pain medications) ineffective. It is the change in chemistry that makes the treatment of chronic pain an ongoing challenge for medical professionals like Dr. J. Fred Stoner.

For more information on Dr. J. Fred Stoner, http://inspirery.com/j-fred-stoner/

Dr. J. Fred Stoner

Written by

Dr. J. Fred Stoner is an experienced pathologist and clinician specializing in pain management, at The Pain Centre based in New Castle, PA.

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