Acute pain typically occurs following an identifiable incident where an injury is sustained, such as a broken arm or sprained ankle. It is adaptive because it results in focused attention on a situation that is threatening. Acute pain is time-limited, diminishes with healing, and the cause usually is known.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, persists beyond the expected time and indicated point of healing, and is typically defined as longer than 3 months duration.
Definitions of Chronic Pain
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage” (IASP, 1994). Pain is a subjective experience dependent on the self-report of the individual. For this reason, another popular definition of pain is that it is “whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he (or she) says it does” (McCaffrey& Pasero, 1999).
One of the most important distinctions in understanding and treating pain is between acute and chronic pain.
Some of the most important differences are highlighted below:
Less than 3 months – More than 3 months
Is a symptom – Is a condition
Identified cause – body’s response to injury
May develop after an incident – may have known or unknown cause
Diminishes with healing and responds to treatment and/or despite treatment- Persists beyond expected healing time
Acute pain typically occurs following an identifiable incident where an injury is sustained, such as a broken arm or sprained
ankle. It is adaptive because it results in focused attention on a situation that is threatening. Acute pain is time-limited, diminishes
with healing, and the cause usually is known. Chronic pain, on the other hand, persists beyond the expected time and indicated
point of healing, and is typically defined as longer than 3 months duration. It may be present in multiple contexts and have an
unknown or known cause (e.g., identified injury, osteoarthritis). While pain is present and may feel identical to acute pain, the
experience does not have the same meaning. More recent understandings of chronic pain suggest that when pain continues in the
absence of ongoing tissue damage, the nervous system itself is misfiring pain signals. Chronic pain, therefore, is best understood
Types and Locations of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can affect any part of the body. Because of the complexity of chronic pain, it is often difficult to categorize
conditions into clear and simplistic categories. It is useful, however, to be familiar with the most commonly used classifications,
nociceptive and neuropathic pain:
• Pain that is caused by damage to body tissue and is based on input by specialized nerves called nociceptors
• Nociceptors sense danger to soft tissues such as muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons
• Most nociceptive pain is musculoskeletal and is often described as aching or deep
• Pain that occurs when there is nerve damage that typically involves either the peripheral or central nerves
• It is often described as burning, shooting, tingling, or electric
Headache pain does not fall into either of the above classes but is another large category of painful conditions:
• Pain that involves disturbance of sensitive structures around the brain
• Sensation is usually in the forehead, eyes, or upper back/neck areas
• Pain is often described as a tight band, pounding, throbbing, or dull
The evaluation of a patient who has chronic pain can be a complex process and various factors must be considered.
Chronic Pain Conditions Treatable with CBT Therapy
A comprehensive review of all pain locations and diagnoses is beyond the scope of this manual. Because of the previously mentioned difficulties encountered in straightforward classification, the list below provides basic information on many conditions.
Low Back Pain.
Middle and Upper Back Pain.
Pelvic Floor Disorders.
Peripheral Neuropathic Pain.
Phantom Limb Pain.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Types of Headaches that can be treated with CBT Therapy
The most common types of headaches are listed below. It is important to remember, however, that patients may have more
than one kind of headache (e.g., tension-type headaches a few times per week and migraines a few times per month). In addition,
in the same way, other pain locations may be difficult to classify.
CBT Therapy for Chronic Pain
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT Therapy), Mindfulness Meditation and Medication can all be used to treat chronic pain. We’ll tailor a plan to your circumstances, medical history, and underlying conditions to help you live a balanced life free of pain.
The CBT Clinic London understands chronic pain and can help. After assessing your symptoms, medical history, and severity of your condition, we can devise a treatment plan and help you live your life to the full again.
Getting help is easy. Simply complete our new patient registration form or if you have questions, contact our friendly team who will assist you. You can call us on 0207 157 9924 or Book Online. Consultations are free and will reveal your diagnosis and enable us to create a customised treatment plan.
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