Pain Centre

Updated 04 June 2015

What is acute pain?

What exactly is acute pain and what differentiates it from other types of pain.


Acute pain is what is felt when you injure yourself or you go through something such as child labour. It can range from a fairly dull and persistent pain such as a tension headache, to something that is unendurable, such as in the case of a third-degree burn.

Acute pain could be fleeting or it could last until the injury is healed. But the point of acute pain is that it is temporary.

If you break a finger, it may take six weeks to heal, but the pain goes away after the finger has healed. Usually, an injured person only needs temporary pain relief. Sometimes, if an injury causes lasting pain, such as a knee injury that plays up in foul weather, an acute pain can become a chronic pain.

A migraine once a year is an acute pain. A migraine every week for a year is a chronic pain.

Doctors usually classify something as chronic if it lasts more than six months.

Injured boy from Shutterstock

Read more:

What is pain?
The importance of feeling pain
How do you control pain?


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