Acute Pain and Chronic Pain – When is it an Emergency?

Some people who suffer from chronic pain might be “used to” the idea of suffering from all kinds of acute pain, which can cause confusion if there is a new pain, equal in intensity to what is considered normal for them. No one wants to take a trip to the emergency room, especially if it feels similar to whatever pain you normally suffer from. However, acute pain and chronic pain are not always the same thing. Being aware of when pain is an actual emergency could help save your life.

The Emergency Room

There is, by necessity a hierarchy of pain in the emergency room. Depending on how severe your current condition is, you will be taken care of in order of necessity of treatment. Just like a large open wound takes priority over a small cut that needs three stitches, the emergency room must make a determination to give everyone chance. If your symptoms are not considered to be life threatening, you will not be high on the priority list.

This is why it is most important to be as descriptive as possible when telling the attending nurse or doctor about your condition. They will have a better idea of where you stand the more relevant information you give them – especially if this is a new type of pain for you. If you suffer from chronic pain, explain that, but explain that you are now dealing with something new. Depending on the level of pain, you may be prescribed:

Urgent Care

Urgent care is the place to go if you definitely need treatment, but are sure you’re not in an emergency. The pain isn’t a new type of pain and is comparably manageable to what you normally feel, but you’re having trouble treating it yourself. You will be seen quicker in the urgent care, most likely, and you will have access to much of the same tests as you would at the emergency room. If you require more treatment, you could be transferred to a hospital. If your normal doctor is unable to see you and you are suffering, Urgent Care is a good backup option, though be sure to let them know who your normal doctor is.

When is Chronic Pain an Emergency?

There is a study that suggests that most chronic pain should not be treated in an emergency room setting. It is especially important to note that taking the normal precautions – like pain management and intervention – can prevent pain that causes such concerns. Often people with chronic pain visit the emergency room for pain management solutions, which is better served at the Urgent Care.

Trust your body, and if you are suffering a new type of pain, or a debilitating pain, it could be an emergency. If it is your normal pain and it simply isn’t manageable, give the urgent care a shot.

Author
Maryland Pain & Wellness

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