Acute Pain vs Chronic Pain

Acute pain is a severe or sudden pain that resolves within a certain amount of time. You might feel acute pain when you have an illness, injury or surgery.

With acute pain, you typically know exactly where and why it hurts. Your elbow burns after a scrape or you feel pain at the site of a surgical incision. Acute pain is triggered by tissue damage. Its purpose is to alert you to injury and protect you from further harm.

Chronic pain is persistent, lasting for months or even longer. Chronic pain is considered a health condition in itself.

With chronic pain, you might not know the reason for the pain. For example, an injury has healed, yet the pain remains — and might even become more intense. Chronic pain can also occur without any indication of an injury or illness.