Acute Vs Chronic Pain- Differences, Exercises and More

Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that usually indicates an illness or injury. We all have experienced and endured this uncomfortable feeling at some point in our lives. The tolerance of pain varies from person to person. For example, if someone stubs their toe on a sharp object, they might not realise the pain. On the other hand, another person might feel immense pain from the same injury. This is because people’s bodies and brains can react differently to the same cause. 

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Understanding the two types of pain, i.e., acute pain and chronic pain, is important for effective management and treatment. In this blog, we will delve into chronic pain vs acute pain, their definitions, symptoms, differences, and more.

Understanding Acute Pain Syndrome

Acute pain is a sharp pain that comes on suddenly and is usually caused by a specific injury and other reasons. It usually lasts less than 12 weeks and indicates a disease or something wrong with the body. This indication needs immediate medical attention.

Causes of Acute Pain

There can be many sources of acute pain affecting a body, such as trauma, surgery, or infections. The primary and most common causes of acute pain are:

  • Surgery: There might be acute pain which results from different surgical procedures.
  • Injury: Physical injuries such as cuts, broken bones, burns, or sprains can be common causes of acute pain
  • Illness: Certain illnesses like UTIs, ear infections, eye infections or conditions like appendicitis can be a cause of acute pain.
  • Medical Procedures: There are some diagnostic procedures, such as injections, biopsies, or dental work, that can also lead to acute pain.

Symptoms of Acute Pain Syndrome

The symptoms of acute pain differ from person to person. Here are some common symptoms of acute pain syndrome to take notice of:

  • Abrupt, Sharp and Intense Pain: When you experience a sudden injury in a specific area, it causes abrupt, sharp, and intense pain that alerts the person. It is one of the main characteristics of acute pain.
  • Specific Location: The injury will affect only a specific location, not your whole body. For example, if you have a fracture on your ankle, only your ankle or feet will be hurting in pain. 
  • Clear Cause of the Pain: There is always a clear cause or source of pain. No other diseases or threats are causing the pain. 
  • Physical Response: There will be a physical response in your body due to acute pain like inflammation, burning, tingling, numbness or changes in heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Weakness: You may feel sudden physical weakness, such as drowsiness or numbness.

Understanding Chronic Pain Syndrome

Chronic pain is a constant and long-lasting pain that lasts longer than 6 months. It extends beyond the typical duration of an injury or disease. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain can be hard to diagnose. It may be misdiagnosed, too. Chronic pain tends to be persistent even after several treatments or medications. It can significantly affect your day-to-day life and your overall well-being.

Causes of chronic pain

Chronic pain is caused by various reasons, which might affect different people differently. Some chronic pain may be caused by an injury that has not healed properly or medical conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Some of the major causes of chronic pain are:

  • Medical Conditions: Chronic medical conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines and endometriosis cause a lot of physical chronic pain in the areas affected.
  • Injuries: Early injuries like a fracture or a sprain that have not healed properly can cause persisting pain later. Sometimes, even healed injuries can cause chronic pain later.
  • Chronic Illness: Cancerous tumours on bones, organs, nerves, or even blood are one of the reasons for chronic pain. Its medical treatments, like chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation, etc., can also cause chronic pain.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Chronic fatigue syndrome is defined as extreme fatigue and weariness that are not cured by rest. It sometimes results in chronic pain.

Symptoms of Chronic Pain Syndrome

Chronic pain symptoms are physically and mentally visible as it affects a person in both ways. The pain can be persistent and overbearing, sometimes increasing stress or anxiety. Here are some important physical and emotional symptoms of pain syndrome:

  • Joint pain
  • Backache
  • Foot ache
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps and aches
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Chronic Pain vs Acute Pain- Key Differences

Chronic pain and acute pain differ in many aspects, including how they develop, duration, causes and symptoms, their impact on daily lives, and much more. Here are the primary differences:

Early symptoms

There is a great deal of attention to the early symptoms of both chronic pain and acute pain.

Chronic pain develops gradually, takes time, and continues to stay beyond the expected healing time of an illness, surgery or injury.

Whereas acute pain begins suddenly as a response to a certain injury, illness, surgery or medical procedure, such as a shooting pain because of cuts or burns.


One of the notable key aspects of chronic pain vs acute pain is the duration of both kinds of pain persisting in your body. Chronic pain is long-lasting and recurrent and affects more than 3-6 months and, in many cases, years.

On the other hand, Acute pain is short-lived. The duration of acute pain can range from a few moments of pain to numerous weeks or several months. But it usually does not go beyond 12 weeks or a month.

Impact on Daily Life

The characteristics of both acute and chronic pains are different, making their impact on your daily life different. Acute pain temporarily limits activities, movements and bodily functions for a specific amount of time. With the right medication and treatment, acute pain is usually resolved.

On the contrary, chronic pain leads to long-term limitations of bodily movements, day-to-day activities, and insomnia, which in turn affects the quality of life. This showcases the direct relationship between a person suffering from chronic pain and mental health associated with it. Chronic pain often leads to long-term emotional exhaustion, depression, anxiety, fatigue and sleep disturbances.

It is crucial to understand these differences for proper diagnosis and treatment of pain using effective measures.

Best Exercises and Yoga Poses for Acute Pain

There are numerous types and options to choose from for acute pain treatment. However, management of chronic pain with exercises and yoga poses is a better idea as it has no potential side effects. Managing acute pain through physical exercises, including yoga, involves targeting specific areas that can help reduce pain, improve mobility, and prevent further injury. Here are some effective exercises for acute pain, which are categorised by common pain areas:

Shoulder Pain

  • Shoulder Roll: Stand upright with your arms down at your sides. Slowly roll your shoulders backwards in circular rotations 5 times. Then repeat the same rotations forward for 5 more times. Repeat it 2-3 times.
  • Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Sit or stand upright. Start squeezing your shoulder blades together, normally breathing and holding it for 5 seconds. Slowly repeat this 10 times. 

Mid and Lower Back Pain

  • Bitilasana: It is also known as a cat-cow stretch. Get on your hands and knees, keeping your neck neutral. Mind that your palms must be under your shoulders, and your knees must be under your hips.  Slowly arch your back and dip it downwards while lifting your head and tailbone. Repeat 5 times. 
  • Pelvic Tilts: Lie straight on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles, press your lower back on the floor, and hold it for 5 seconds. Slowly repeat 5 times. 

Knee and Ankle Pain

  • Quad Sets: Sit upright with your leg straight out before you. Slowly tighten your thigh muscles and press the back of your knee downwards towards the floor. Hold the position for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times. This exercise is for knee pain. It will strengthen your thigh muscles (quadriceps) and stabilise the knee joint.
  • Calf Raises: Stand straight with your feet apart. Slowly raise your heels off the ground and stand on your toes. Hold for 5 seconds and slowly lower your heels back down. Repeat 5 times. This exercise helps with ankle pain. It will strengthen the calf muscle and improve ankle stability.

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Best Exercises and Yoga Poses for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can significantly impact and deteriorate your lifestyle and daily activities. Physical exercises are crucial for chronic pain treatment and management and help in improving mobility and strength. Here are some effective exercises tailored for various types of chronic pain:

Cardio Exercises 

Cardiovascular exercises have numerous physical and mental benefits. Cardio yogasanas like Adho Mukha Svanasana and Malasana can be done at any time of the day, preferably in the morning. It is specifically helpful for people suffering from chronic pain. Cardio exercises like walking, swimming, jogging and water aerobics can help improve mobility, strength, endurance and heart health. 

Stretching Exercises

Slow and gentle stretching exercises can be highly effective for pain relief. Stretching exercises help relieve tension, painful cramps and stiffness in your back or neck. Regular stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and mobility and increase blood flow to the affected areas. For example, you can try this for your lower back:

  • Lower back and glute stretch: Lie straight on the floor and bring your knees towards your chest. Wrap your arms around your knees like you are hugging yourself. Slowly rock to your opposite sides and feel a stretch through your lower back and hips.

Strengthening Exercises

Building strength is crucial for preventing future injuries and forming a strong restraint on your joints and affected areas. Building satisfactory core strength is essential if you are suffering from chronic pain. It helps you improve your posture, balance, and body mobility. Strengthening exercises and stabilising the muscles of your abdomen, hips, and back can help improve core strength and stability. Some yoga poses that strengthen your joints include salabasana (locust pose), wheel pose (chakrasana), and dolphin pose (ardha pincha mayurasana)


Struggling with acute or chronic pain is unavoidable at some points in our lives. Understanding the main differences between chronic pain vs acute pain aspect will allow you to manage your symptoms better and take proper measures to improve your life. Remember, you do not have to suffer in silence. Connect with our professionals to understand your acute pain syndrome and chronic pain syndrome better and learn the needful exercises for the betterment of your life.

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Manjeet Singh
Manjeet Singh

Manjeet, a seasoned entrepreneur with over 18 years in edtech and health tech, boasts a profound understanding of the human anatomy. When faced with Lumbar Spondylitis, instead of opting for surgery, Manjeet innovatively crafted the 360Flex methodology, harnessing the power of yoga for natural chronic pain management. As the driving force behind Buddy4Study, he escalated its user base to a staggering 5M and amplified organic traffic to over 100,000/day within 3.5 years.

His commendable achievements include accolades such as Business World Techtors 2020 and being named among CNBC's top entrepreneurs 2020. A B.Tech graduate from MERI, Kolkata, Manjeet's expertise is an asset in the realm of holistic healing.

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