• Dr Katarine ND RAc

Pain series Part 1: Acute vs Chronic Pain




It is among the strongest motivational forces in our culture. Pain, both acute and chronic, can stop you in your tracks, prevent you from enjoying your life and just make you feel miserable. And sometimes it seems that no matter what one tries, different postures, medications, etc… it just doesn’t go away.


There are so many questions about pain: “What is it really?” “Why is it there?” and “What can be done about it?”


Pain Defined: An unpleasant sensory or emotional experience experienced with actual or anticipated tissue damage


Believe it or not, Pain is actually both beneficial and detrimental:

  • It is a good thing because: it developed and persists as a survival mechanism.

  • Pain acts as an alarm in the body. It’s sending your brain a message that there is something wrong that needs to be dealt with.

  • “Ow hot – take your hand off the stove”

  • Pain teaches us a valuable lesson: when it hurts you’re less likely to forget it!

  • “This hurts because fire is hot – don’t touch again”

  • If it doesn’t hurt, we tend to forget more easily…

  • It is a bad thing when: it doesn’t go away &/or seemingly present for unknown reasons.

  • This can occur for a variety of reasons including:

  • Failing to remove a stimulus

  • Not allowing the body to rest and recover appropriately

  • Other more complex issues involving nervous system and emotional responses


2 Main types of Pain: Acute and Chronic:


  • Acute Pain

  • Lasts less than 3months

  • Caused by Tissue Damage:

  • Bruising of skin

  • Stretching of tendons

  • Breaking of bones

  • These types of injuries are healed naturally by the body given the appropriate rest ans recovery time

  • Intended to improve survival

  • Usually less difficult to treat and resolve


  • Chronic Pain

  • Persists for over 3 months

  • From nerve sensitivity &emotional response:

  • Nerve compression

  • Stress and Learned responses

  • PTSD

  • A type of “learned pain”, from the nervous system being rewired. Once the nervous system is rewired, it can be more challenging to re-rewire it!

  • Not a survival mechanism

  • More complex and difficult to treat

  • Can often result in depletion of physical, mental and emotional resources which further complicates healing

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • PTSD


Given the differences, we can understand how managing pain, chronic pain in particular, can be especially complex.


Naturopathic Physicians have many modalities that can be very beneficial in helping resolve many forms of both acute and chronic pain. Part 2 of this article series outlines some of the options.


In Health,

Dr Katarine Holewa, ND RAc

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