10 Jun 2008 05:51 pm

Writer’s Block June 10

June 10, 2008

Acute Back Pain

baby

Poindexter here may seem like a cute kid, but believe you me, when he wakes you up at three in the morning cause he’s having a snack attack, you’re more likely to think he’s a cute pain in the derriere.

And speaking of acute pain…

I spent over an hour the other day answering one fellow’s questions about his back problems and trying to translate into layman’s terms what his doctor had told him.

I won’t try to cover everything we talked about but one area where he was confused was the difference between acute and chronic pain.

It Ain’t What You Think

I’ve found that we, the general public, often confuse the term acute to mean severe or intense pain. Unfortunately, this is simply not what it means.

The word acute actually means the initial stage of an injury or disease. It is a reference to time scale only, not how much agony you may be in. Acute pain usually refers to a condition with rapid onset and short duration.

The word chronic, on the other hand, is a condition that persists over time. This can be months or even years. Chronic pain –- just as with acute pain — has nothing to do with the intensity or level of discomfort.

Also, the time scale can vary depending on the particular injury or disease. For example an acute heart attack may last as long as a week, while an acute headache may only last an hour or so.

It’s About Time

oldclock

So just remember, when your doctor or nurse refers to the acute phase of a disease they are referring to time and really mean one or both of the following:

  1. abrupt, or rapid onset
  2. short duration

On the other hand when they refer to chronic pain, they are talking about a condition that is of longer duration.

If you keep these terms in mind, it will make communicating with your health care provider a little easier and less confusing.

Take care,
Dean

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