Whether you’re an athlete who experiences post-practice aches or a professional who notices occasional discomfort after a long day at your desk, how do you know if your pain symptoms require an expert’s attention? Are your issues simply your body’s natural response to high-impact exercise? Did you just pull a muscle that will heal on its own? Do you need to try a minor lifestyle adjustment, such as stretching throughout the workday? Or is it time to seek treatment?
The only way to confirm whether or not your pain symptoms indicate an injury is to make that appointment. Always see a doctor when in doubt!
While, for instance, an apparently broken bone may seem more critical than a dull or indistinct ache that fades in and out, it is pivotal that you seek help for both types of cases to rule out serious issues and prevent the pain from returning or escalating in the future.
Acute vs. Chronic Pain
For the most part, pain is a subjective concept that varies based on each individual’s own history and tolerance. What constitutes an abnormal pain level that requires immediate attention? When is discomfort minor enough that it will correct itself with time? If you’re unsure whether it’s time to see a physical therapist or massage therapist to work out that ache, you may want to start by considering whether your issue may be acute or chronic.
Acute pain is typically characterized by a very short burst of pain in a localized area. This is the signal that tells your body to stop the pain-causing action. It's that feeling of burning yourself on a hot plate or accidentally stubbing your toe on the stairwell. It hurts immediately, but then it goes away. Your doctor may also warn you of potential bouts of acute pain while recovering from certain procedures. Clearly this may take longer to heal than a quick burn, but when the expected recovery period ends, the pain should stop.
Chronic pain is a longer-lasting sort of pain. It may come and go or it may be constant, but it sticks around in some capacity for weeks, months… however long you wait to seek treatment. Chronic pain is generally diagnosed at 3-6 months, though this is a ballpark figure, and it is always warrants a visit to your trusted healthcare professional as soon as possible. Bear in mind, any pain that lasts longer than it “should” is defined as chronic, whether that's after one month or six.
What Should You Do About It?
If something feels off, whether it's chronic pain or a sharp pain that's not supposed to be there when you're training, it’s essential that you see someone about it as soon as possible. And, of course, if you’re experiencing an emergency: call 911!
If your minor discomfort or injury recovery is at a point where it can be managed with physical therapy or massage therapy, 5focus staff are experienced in offering customized treatment plans. When you’re ready, we’re here to help you get your body back into the groove again, and to keep you comfortable and safe while doing what you love!