What’s the Difference Between Chronic and Acute Pain?

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Understanding the Differences Between Chronic and Acute Pain

By Glenn Krakow, 9:00 am on

Pain is either chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term). For seniors, each form of pain can have a direct impact on their immediate or overall quality of life. For caregivers, knowing levels of pain their loved ones are experiencing can help with management of their discomfort. Understanding the differences between chronic and acute pain can also help at-home caregivers of senior loved ones with conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s disease who may have difficulty verbalizing their pain.

Acute Pain

Usually sharp in nature, acute pain can also be mild and intermittent. Some seniors experience acute pain that’s aggravated by certain movements, as is often the case with conditions like disc degeneration and spinal stenosis. After the source of the initial pain is determined and treated, discomfort is frequently minimized to the point where it’s manageable or goes away completely. Acute pain in seniors may stem from:

• Recent surgery (pain usually goes away during the healing process)
• Dental work or untreated dental issues
• Burns or cuts
• Broken bones

Chronic Pain

Acute pain that persists may become chronic pain, defined as pain lasting longer than six months. Chronic pain in seniors may result in related emotional stress or depression that can contribute to lingering discomfort. El Dorado County senior care professionals note that chronic pain is more likely to affect quality of life in seniors due to changes in activity from limited mobility or an increased fear of falling or re-injury. Chronic pain in seniors can include:

• Lower back pain
• Neurogenic pain (pain from nerve damage)
• Psychogenic pain (pain related to mental, emotional, or behavioral factors)
• Arthritis

Sudden, sharp pain is treated by determining what caused the sudden discomfort. The goal with mild and chronic pain is effective management, typically involving over-the-counter or prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, surgery (often a last resort due to the risk of increased complications with age), or non-traditional remedies like acupuncture.

When chronic pain makes everyday tasks challenging for your elderly relative, turn to Home Care Assistance. Our trained and experienced caregivers can provide the help and support your senior loved one needs and deserves, offering assistance with everything from cooking and light cleaning to running errands and personal grooming. For more information on our care services, including hourly and live-in home care for seniors in El Dorado County, give us a call at (916) 358-3801 or (530) 409-4411.