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Pain is a natural part of life. Physical pain functions as our body’s warning system to alert us to situations that need our attention. Like when you touch a hot saucepan and the pain triggers your brain to move your hand immediately to prevent a serious burn. Pain can be either acute or chronic.

Acute Pain

Acute pain is short term pain with an obvious cause. Like touching a hot saucepan. Other examples of short term pain could include a broken bone, a pulled muscle, or other injury. When the injury heals the pain goes away.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is different and requires more comprehensive treatment. Normally we would classify pain as chronic when it has lasted for 3-6 months or longer. Chronic pain can have an obvious cause such as pain from arthritis or a long-term back injury. However, sometimes chronic pain can persist even when there is no obvious cause for the pain. This may be caused by damage to nerves or by the nerves becoming overly sensitive to pain.

Chronic pain can be debilitating. Pain causes our bodies to be in a constant state of stress. This can lead to changes in appetite, tense muscles (which can exacerbate the pain), changes in your ability to care for yourself and various changes in emotions and mental health. Pain Australia report that in 2018, 3.24 million Australians lived with chronic pain.

Pain should always be taken seriously. You should make sure you see your doctor if acute pain doesn’t resolve as it should. Chronic pain syndromes need different treatment than short term pain. And other possible causes for the pain need to be explored. “Pushing through the pain” is unlikely to help with chronic pain problems and could actually make things worse. Seek medical help especially if pain begins to interfere with your usual daily activities. There is much that can be done to help, but only if you ask someone.