Acute and Chronic Pain…What’s the difference?

This week we were able to speak with Adam R. Wilson, PA-C, from Harborside Spine & Sports Center. Adam is a graduate of Central Michigan University’s PA program. He focuses on treating musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain using an array of treatments including Ultrasound-guided procedures and lifestyle modifications. We asked Adam to discuss the difference between acute and chronic pain.
What is you medical background?
I am a physician assistant with greater than 5 years of experience treating acute and chronic pain, including sports related injuries.
What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
Acute pain happens as a result of an injury and serves as a warning of damage to the body.  It is usually associated with active inflammation.  The pain will normally dissipate when the underlying cause is either treated or has healed.
Chronic pain is pain that lasts greater than three months.  In some cases, this could happen even though the underlying cause has healed.   Chronic pain can be associated with tense muscles, decreased mobility, and even emotional changes.     
What types of treatments do pain-management clinics offer?
Pain management clinics offer many treatments to address acute and chronic pain including: suggesting exercises or referral to physical therapy for a more comprehensive program, proper bracing or immobilization, injections and medications. We basically provide non-surgical treatments of joint, muscle or nerve pain.
What are some of the more common conditions you treat?
Common conditions that I treat are acute and chronic low back pain, arthritis of the shoulder, hip, and knee, and ligament/tendon issues.
If a person is experiencing pain, how long should they wait before they speak to their physician?
They should schedule an appointment for any injury that does not seem be following the normal healing process. They should also be evaluated if they seem to be “stuck” at a certain phase of the recovery process. Other possible signs that should prompt someone to speak to their medical provider soon would be: severe bruising, persistent swelling beyond a day or two, or redness and warmth of the injured area.
At what point in the treatment process is it helpful to visit a practice that specializes in pain management?
Again, whenever things do not seem to be responding to initial treatments like, exercise, physical therapy and over the counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen.


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