Updated 04 June 2014

Types of pain

Pain can be divided, according to the origin and duration of the pain, into three major categories: Acute, Chronic and Labour pain.


Pain is divided into two major categories according to its origin and duration: acute and chronic.

Acute pain
Acute pain can originate:

  • Outside hospital: due to an accident, trauma, sudden illness, inflammation etc.
  • After surgery: inflammation can lead to pain. The expected duration of severe postoperative pain can differ depending on the type of surgery. Surgery to the chest (thorax) and upper abdomen will lead to severe pain for three to four days. Surgery to the lower abdomen, joints, bones, face and pelvic area will cause severe pain for two to three days.

Chronic pain
Chronic pain is usually associated with diseases like:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes and other chronic diseases
  • Neuropathic disorders
  • Aids

Labour pain
Labour pain is an example of acute pain.

Pain in children
The management of pain in children needs special mention.

Reviewed by Prof CL Odendal, senior specialist at the department of anaesthesiology at the University of the Free State, April 2010.

Read more:

Migraine management
Acupuncture for kids


Multiple Sclerosis South Africa
Arthritis Foundation of South Africa
The South African Society of Physiotherapy


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