Acute pain is temporary, short-term pain that has a clear cause. There are many reasons you can experience acute pain, ranging from injuries to discomfort after surgery. Our pain management center doctors provide the most advanced and efficient treatments to help you find relief from acute pain, including specialized pain management for postsurgical discomfort.
What is acute pain?
Acute pain is generally associated with normal health concerns such as illness or injury. The most common type of pain, acute pain is defined as short-term pain that occurs suddenly and is related to a specific cause. Acute pain improves as your body heals and lasts less than 12 weeks. Pain that lasts more than 12 weeks is considered chronic pain.
Acute pain symptoms and risks
Pain is diagnosed as acute when:
- Pain does not last more than a few months
- Pain has a specific cause, such as a broken bone
- Pain is sudden and sharp
Although acute pain is defined as lasting for only a short period, that does not mean the pain is always minor. Acute pain can be mild or severe, depending on the cause. Symptoms can come and go, and pain levels can increase or decrease. Acute pain can disappear in just a few seconds, or last for days or weeks.
Acute pain diagnosis and screening
There are many ways doctors can diagnose acute pain. One of the most common is simply to ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10.
Your doctor may also ask several other questions to gather information about your pain and decide on the best pain management treatment:
- Are you currently taking anything to treat your pain?
- Did your symptoms start gradually or all of a sudden?
- Do you experience other symptoms besides pain, such as numbness or tingling?
- Does your pain affect your overall quality of life?
- Has your pain stayed in one place or has it spread to other areas of your body?
- How long have you noticed this pain?
- Is the pain constant or does it come and go?
- Is the pain sharp or dull?
- What were you doing when the pain started? Did you experience an injury or fall?
If the cause of your pain is not easy to diagnose, your doctor may order additional tests to determine the cause of your pain, such as outpatient lab work or imaging tests.
Acute pain treatment
Finding the best treatment for acute pain depends on many factors, including the cause, location and severity of the pain. Pain resulting from childbirth, for example, would be treated quite differently from pain from a sports injury.
When acute pain is minor, treatment can be as simple as taking an over-the-counter medication. More complex acute pain, such as postsurgical discomfort, requires the expertise of a trained professional.
At The University of Kansas Health System, we treat acute pain in a multimodal fashion. This means we do not rely solely on pain medications, like morphine or opioids, but draw on a full spectrum of treatments to achieve the greatest pain relief while minimizing the risk of side effects.
Depending on the nature of your pain, we may incorporate one or more advanced treatment techniques:
- Epidural catheters
- IV or oral medications, including anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants or antidepressants
- Peripheral nerve blocks
Because acute pain is common after surgery, a plan for postoperative pain management will be included as part of your surgical care. Postsurgical acute pain normally lasts about a week, depending on the type of surgery you had. Effective pain control can minimize stress response from surgery and reduce the risk of complications, both of which can help speed your postsurgical recovery.
Why choose us for acute pain treatment
The pain management team at The University of Kansas Health System takes a comprehensive approach to controlling postoperative acute pain. Our highly skilled acute pain professionals received additional specialized training and credentialing in postsurgical pain management. Their sole responsibility is to consult with your surgeon prior to your procedure and follow up with you during and after surgery.
Members of our team are on site and available around the clock, every day of the week. We make every effort to ensure the same team is in rotation throughout the week to provide consistency and continuity of care. Our goal is to ensure that you’re comfortable after surgery and any postoperative pain you experience is well-managed.