From stubbed toes to stomachaches, we all experience pain. In most cases this pain is temporary (or acute), however other times pain can persist for several weeks, months, or years. Its longevity, cause, location, and circumstances all contribute to how providers treat that pain and help you live the healthiest life possible.
Acute pain is the most common type of pain, usually associated with common illnesses or injuries like cuts and sprains, or trauma from a severe accident or major surgery. Acute pain occurs suddenly and usually goes away as you heal.
Minor acute pain can be easily treated through over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, physician therapy or exercise, or alternative treatments. Acute pain from trauma or major surgery may require stronger medicines or more intensive therapies.
If not appropriately treated, acute pain can turn into chronic pain.
If your pain lasts more than three months, it is considered chronic or persistent pain, and you may require help from your provider to understand the cause and determine treatment.
We estimate that nearly one of every four adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain. At Intermountain, we rely on experienced primary care providers, expert specialists, and a balanced, interdisciplinary approach to treating both the physical and psychological effects of chronic pain:
- Understand the cause. A variety of syndromes and conditions can cause chronic pain. It is essential to identify the root of the pain, as well as managing the pain itself. Different conditions require different types of treatment, what may work well for a migraine headache may aggravate an inflamed colon.
- Involve the patient. We include patients in their own pain management process, asking them to set goals, contribute to planning, and track their progress as chronic pain is experienced differently by each of us.
- Treat the pain and other symptoms. While medicines are useful tools in providing relief, they should not be the only part of the chronic pain equation. This is especially true when considering strong substances such as opioids, which can cause addiction and other serious side effects.Your primary care provider may also recommend physical therapy, massage, anti-inflammatory medicines and exercise, meditation and relaxation practices, and working with a behavioral health professional to help with self-regulation of the pain symptoms.
- Monitor results and follow-up. You can expect regular follow-up appointments with your primary care provider to manage your progress, make changes to your treatment plan, and support your recovery.
You can still live a happy productive life with chronic pain; talk to your provider to consider other options to help with chronic pain symptoms.