Understanding Pain: What is Acute versus Chronic Pain?

Pain is a complex and multi-dimensional experience that plays a crucial role in our lives. It serves as a valuable warning sign, alerting us to potential harm or injury. However, it is important to understand that pain is not a direct indication of actual damage or injury. Instead, pain is a response to potential threats.

“An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.”

You can think of pain as a fire alarm. Fire alarms detect smoke or heat instead of fire itself. False alarms happen when there is no actual fire. While this is inevitable, having a fire alarm that goes off every time you cook a meal is a problem. Similarly, pain becomes a problem when it no longer serves as a vital warning sign.

In today’s article, we will discuss the different durations of pain, their characteristics, and appropriate treatment approaches for them.

Acute Pain

acute pain

All of us will be familiar with acute pain. The pain you experience when you scrape your knee or accidentally touch a hot kettle? That is acute pain.

You can think of acute pain as pain that is short-lasting. Typically, pain lasting for less than six weeks can be considered acute. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines acute pain as “pain that is typically sudden in onset and results from injury, surgery, or other medical procedures. It is usually short-lived and resolves with healing.”

Acute pain serves as an immediate response to an injury or illness. It acts as a protective mechanism, signaling the body to take action and avoid further harm. Examples of acute pain include strained muscles, cuts, burns, and post-surgical discomfort. Acute pain is usually localised, with a well-defined onset and identifiable cause.

Most acute pain will heal on its own even without treatment. Once the underlying issue is addressed and the body heals, your pain will start to subside.

Subacute pain

Subacute pain refers to a category of pain that falls between acute and chronic pain. It usually refers to pain that are longer than six weeks but no more than 12 weeks.

Subacute pain may result from various factors such as injury, inflammation, or underlying medical conditions. While it may persist beyond the normal healing time for acute pain, subacute pain is often expected to improve over time.

If you have been experiencing pain for more than six weeks, it is recommended to seek assistance from a healthcare provider, such as a chiropractor. Consulting a healthcare professional at this stage allows for early intervention and appropriate measures to prevent the pain from progressing into chronicity. A chiropractor can assess your condition, identify any underlying issues contributing to the pain, and provide guidance on the necessary steps to manage and alleviate it. By seeking help promptly, you can address the pain effectively and receive guidance on potential underlying factors that may be influencing your symptoms. Taking action early can lead to better outcomes and help you regain control of your well-being.

Chronic Pain

pain clinic singapore
Our holistic approach at Square One Active Recovery doesn’t look at just making your pain go away. We also look at your functional capacity. In doing so, we work with your physical body so it can support your desired lifestyle.

Chronic pain is a type of persistent pain that extends beyond the usual healing time. While it can be caused by unresolved tissue damage, it is increasingly recognised that chronic pain can persist even in the absence of ongoing injury or identifiable tissue damage. This phenomenon is often attributed to complex interactions within the nervous system, where pain signals continue to be processed and amplified. Understanding that chronic pain can exist without ongoing tissue damage helps explain why it can be challenging to treat effectively. Comprehensive approaches that address not only the physical aspects but also the psychological and social factors influencing pain perception are crucial in managing chronic pain and improving the overall well-being of individuals experiencing it.

Unlike acute pain, chronic pain can last for months or even years, leading many individuals on a challenging journey to seek relief. Traditional treatments that focus solely on the physical aspect of pain, such as chiropractic adjustments, massage, or stretching, do not provide long-term results for chronic pain sufferers. This is because chronic pain can persist even in the absence of physical injury or damage. A biopsychosocial approach that addresses the multidimensional aspects of chronic pain is required for meaningful long-term results. This will include addressing psychological, emotional, and social factors, is necessary for effective management. By understanding the complex nature of chronic pain and adopting a holistic approach, you can achieve better outcomes and break free from the cycle of pain recurrence.

Finding freedom from pain

jesse cai, chiropractor singaporeA vet and law school dropout, Dr Jesse Cai is not your average chiropractor. Prior to his move to Singapore, Jesse worked with professional athletes from Australia state to world championship levels. He was also the head sport trainer for an Australian football team. His intricate understanding of exercise and the human body allows him to use movements and physical activity to help you find freedom from pain.

Jesse believes that health is a complete state of well-being and not just a mere absence of diseases.  Jesse is a certified solution-focused coach and is currently pursuing further studies in psychology at James Cook University.

Understanding the various types of pain is crucial in managing and treating it effectively. Whether it’s acute, subacute, or, each type has its unique characteristics and necessitates a tailored approach for pain management. If you experience persistent or severe pain, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional who can assess your condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.