Acute Pain: A Practical Guide to Pain Management

Acute PainEveryone experiences and responds to pain differently. Acute pain is a type of pain that could last from a minute to about three months and sometimes up to six months. For those don’t know, acute pain usually begins suddenly and is caused by something specific such as an injury, surgery or due to a traumatic event. Although acute pain is short in duration as a result of a soft-tissue injury or a result of a temporary illness, it can aggravate the situation if not taken care of properly.

We have all probably experienced acute pain at least a couple of times in our lives; remember that time after that wisdom tooth removal or when you fell off your bike or when you scraped your knee tripping on the pavement as a kid. And as you grew older acute pain could have been experienced that time you pulled a muscle one day trying out a new exercise at the gym or when you burned yourself taking dinner out of the oven. We have all experienced varying degrees of pain throughout our lives and are always looking for ways to manage the challenges of acute pain.

Have you ever wondered why you’re in pain? How can you stop this annoying pain? What is causing this pain? These are important questions to ask ourselves in order to become aware of what is going and figure out how to manage our pain better.

What is Acute Pain?

As mentioned before, acute pain occurs suddenly and is usually described as a sharp feeling. The pain can be the result of a cut, burn, broken bone, soft tissue injury or due to healing after a surgery or illness. Acute pain usually subsides as your body heals or as you recover from the illness. Essentially, the pain serves as a means to warn you that there is a threat to the body and that something is going on as your body heals after an injury or fights off an illness.

The pain itself is not dangerous to your wellbeing but rather it serves to warn you on how bad the injury or illness may be. Pain can be rated on a scale to describe the severity and intensity. At the end of the day, you are the best judge of your own pain. In most cases, when acute pain subsides, you can continue your life as you normally would. This is in contrast to chronic pain.

Types of Acute Pain

Many people may not know at the time, but acute pain can be involved in your day-to-day activities. An activity such as purchasing a hot coffee cup without a sleeve can trigger a quick reflex of pain. In these cases, the acute pain triggers our body and mind to acute stress response. Acute pain triggers differently for everyone and can be divided into different types of pain as described below (R):

  • Visceral Pain – This pain results from injuries or damage to your internal organs. Primarily focus is your chest, abdomen and pelvis. Although it is hard to find the exact location of the visceral pain. People who experience visceral pain tend to feel aching, squeezing, cramping and pressure.
  • Somatic Pain – You feel pain in the tissues. This includes your joints, skin, bones, and muscles. Somatic pain is easy to pinpoint the exact location. Some examples of somatic pain include skin cuts, burns, join pains, and strained muscles.
  • Neuropathic Pain – A pain that is caused by damage or disease affecting the nervous system. It can possibly come out of nowhere and respond to any specific injury. You can feel pain to things that aren’t usually pain such as cold air or clothes against your skin. Some examples of neuropathic pain is freezing, burning, tingling, and electric shocks.

What Causes Acute Pain?

Lateral Foot PainAcute pain can be the result of a wide number of causes. Surgery, broken bones, dental work, burns or cuts, labor and childbirth are some of the causes. There is always a valid reason behind acute pain as a certain unpleasant event leads to an acute pain response (R). You may be wondering, well that’s great but tell me how I can manage my pain!

How to Manage Acute Pain

  • Rest – the best thing you can do to help speed up the recovery is to rest the affected part of your body as much as possible. This allows for the majority of your energy to be invested into the healing of the area and ensures you recover as soon as possible
  • Sleep well
  • Take more naps
  • Rest the affected body part (limit too much movements)
  • Applying ice – using ice in the area of acute pain is another popular choice for managing pain. Ice helps to constrict the blood vessels in the affected area. This helps to numb the pain and relieve inflammation and bruising. Heat is often not recommended because acute injuries are already a result of inflammation so adding more heat can cause more inflammation and delay the healing process.

Manage Stress

Alongside resting, reducing stress is important! Stress can worsen your pain because stress responses result in tightness and soreness of your muscles as you clench and tense up. Stress also results in the release of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol works to protect our body when there is a threat present. But when we are constantly under stress, cortisol causes more inflammation and pain over time (R). Relax your breathing, your muscles and your mind. Take advantage of resources available such as guided breathing apps or podcasts. Hence, practicing relaxation techniques and mediating can be beneficial when experiencing pain (R).

Exercise to Reduce Pain

Exercise, in contrary to resting, can sometimes be beneficial to relieving pain. In some cases, exercise can help decrease inflammation. Exercise can also increase mobility of the affected body part and speed up the healing process by pumping blood flow to the affected area. Walking is a great low intensity exercise to help you increase blood flow while being cautious of pain and healing. Yoga is another great way to move the body while relaxing and decreasing stress levels. You can also do simple stretching to get your blood flowing. Stretching can be done anywhere while you are sitting or standing. You want to start off with light exercise and movement of the affected body part and gradually increase mobility and functioning over time as your body heals.

Similar to exercise, physical therapy is recommended by health professionals to help with the mobility and recovering of affected body part. For example, if you twisted your ankle or fractured your leg, you will most likely be in a cast and have been resting. Physical therapy can help you transition back into getting your body moving and functioning as normally.

Pharmacological Interventions for Acute Pain

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, Advil, naproxen or Tylenol are often used to help with inflammation of an acute injury. This further helps to manage pain. In other cases, opioids (codeine or morphine) are used for more intense pain that cannot be managed with over-the-counter drug store products. Muscle relaxants are also prescribed by doctors in some cases depending on the type and cause of pain. As always, it is important that you speak to your doctor or local pharmacist for more information on what is the best treatment for you.

If you’re thinking, heck no, medications aren’t for me, give me more natural management techniques, don’t worry, we got you!

Meditation – Limit Medication for Acute PainManage Pain

As previously mentioned, meditation and other relaxation techniques such as yoga and breathing exercises are a great way to not only relieve pain but reduce your overall stress levels. We recommend that you try to practice at least 10-15 minutes of mediation or “mindfulness practice” each day to help speed up your healing process.

A research study done in 2017 tested the effects of mindfulness activities on relieving acute pain. Mindfulness based activities help you to focus on your breath while accepting the pain experience. Essentially, you are feeling the pain but not reacting and instead focusing on your breathing. As you begin to relax, you are to imagine feelings of warmth and coolness over the pain and the affected body part. The results of the study at Utah Hospital showed that all the patients who practiced mindfulness regularly for a week, reported significantly lowered levels of pain (R).

So how great is that? You can use the power of your mind to help heal your body faster and relieve the associated pain!

Likewise, there are a large number of resources out there that you can use to practice mindfulness or meditation and ultimately take control of your pain instead of letting your pain take over you.

Other Great Ways of Managing Pain

Diet – drinking lots of water and eating a well-balanced diet is crucial to making sure your body has the adequate resources to heal and return to its original functionality. Limiting alcohol and drug use is also an important consideration to help your body do its job without distractions!

Pace Activities – while you may think, “I can’t be resting all the time, I have work to do and dinner to cook”, it’s important that you do provide time for your body to heal. Ways to pace your daily activities such as work, school and home chores include breaking up your activities into smaller chunks and taking appropriate rests for your body. While it may not be productive, working at a slower, less intense pace is beneficial. Then, as you heal, you can gradually increase the intensity and time spent on tasks. Ultimately, it is important that you try not to strain the affected body part too much while recovering

Improve Mood – a positive mood results in the release of hormones that help to reduce stress and results in a faster recovery. Things like watching a funny movie, talking on the phone or spending time with family and friends can help improve your mood and cope with the pain. Practicing gratitude and remembering that this is temporary can also help you stay positive and feel better.

Medications – use medications appropriately whether it be prescribed or over the counter drugs and speak to your doctor if you are experiencing severe pain.

Combat Acute Pain with the CareClinic App

Have you considered about tracking your acute pain or any other type of pain?

Well, meet the CareClinic app. It is a free health app that includes a bunch of features, tools, and accessibility to manage pain and most importantly your overall health. Anyone who has a smartphone can download the app for free, on both IOS and Android. This app is so simple to use. By creating a My CarePlan you can add your goals, medications, supplements, and inviting friends or family members to part of your care team!

Pain in general is a complex symptom and it can be irritating for many of us. Start now by managing to be pain free with using the CareClinic app to track your pain. When you start noticing the benefits of monitoring your pain, you will understand how your body works with pain and acknowledge how pain works around you. By regularly monitoring, the CareClinic health app creates monthly reports which you can share with your doctor. As a team, you will be more aware about the pain and have more information to provide to your health professional. This will help them to create solutions, suitable treatments, and steps on improving your overall quality of life.

Why It’s important to Keep a Pain Diary?

The CareClinic app offers a health diary feature which is helpful for those who are living with acute pain or any other type of pain. Many who experience pain, may not be able to sleep and have trouble thinking about it. Pain can be difficult for your day-to-day activities, such as going to work or simply living the life you choose. A health diary can help you keep track of how bad the pain is, when the pain occurs, what type of pain it is, and if the treatment is helping.

Keeping a health diary is like giving clues about your pain and knowing what makes it better or worse. From this you can take the appropriate action, whether it’s needing medication or needing to speak to a health professional. You’re probably thinking about how you can use a pain diary? Simple. Just by checking into the CareClinic app to the diary entry section, you can write down the time and date of your pain episodes. Some things to include while tracking your pain in the diary:

  • Any pain medicine you take and how much
  • Anything you did, drank, ate or drank that might have made the pain better or worse
  • Side effects of your pain medication
  • Improper exercise that might have caused the pain

Questions to Ask

The health diary from the CareClinic app can help you and your doctor to understand how to make your pain better or worse. Simply by asking yourself some questions while you are using your health diary you will be able to get a better understanding of your acute pain symptoms. Here are some things to think about while you are using the health diary:

  • Does the pain change at different times of day? When?
  • Where is the pain located?
  • How long does the pain last? When does it start?
  • How does the pain feel? Is it sharp, tingling, burning, throbbing?

Use of Technology in Managing Acute Pain

For those who think the diary feature is not something for you, the CareClinic app offers a symptom tracker that helps you to choose and input the level of pain your feeling. A simple feature where you can search any pain related symptoms or any other health related symptoms. From using the symptom tracker, you can view each symptom and understand the progress of your treatment! You will be able to collect contextual data about your pain episodes and can simply share this information with your providers for better diagnosis or treatment plans.

Overall, the CareClinic app is a great piece of technology to use in your everyday life. To manage acute pain you can apply meditation techniques, breathing reminders, daily exercise routines with the CareClinic app. It’s an all around app that can help you to manage your pain and the ability to apply your goals, review your process and importantly accomplish your results.

Download CareClinic Pill & Symptom Tracker App
Dharusan Sivanandarajah