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Acute vs. Chronic Injuries: Understanding The Difference

Have you ever wondered why some injuries seem to heal quickly while others linger on? We’re going to explore the main differences between two types of injuries: acute and chronic. Let’s dive in and learn how they’re not the same and how we treat them differently.

Acute Injuries: The Sudden Ones Acute injuries are the ones that happen suddenly, often due to a single incident. Think about slipping on ice or spraining your wrist during a sports game. These injuries can be painful, but here’s what makes them unique:

  1. Clear Cause: Acute injuries usually result from one specific event. You know what caused the problem, like a fall or a collision.
  2. Short Duration: The good news is that acute injuries tend to heal relatively quickly. In most cases, you’re back to normal within a few days or weeks with one caveat (25-30% of injuries have the probablity of turning chronic)
  3. Basic Treatments: Treating acute injuries is usually straightforward. We coax the healing process along with managing symptoms, behavior modifications, and improving function. But the goal is always to help you heal and return to your regular activities.

Chronic Injuries: The Lingering Ones Now, chronic injuries are like that lingering tune that plays in your head – they just won’t fade away. These injuries develop gradually, often due to repetitive actions or overuse of a specific body part. Or, acute injuries that never got managed correctly. Here’s what to know:

  1. Slow Build-Up: Chronic injuries sneak up on you. You might not even realize you have one until it’s been bothering you for a while.
  2. Persistent: Unlike acute injuries, chronic ones can stick with you for a long time, even months or years, if you don’t handle them correctly.
  3. Different Treatment: Dealing with chronic injuries requires a different approach. It’s not just about fixing the immediate problem; it’s about managing the pain, restoring function, and preventing further issues. Our goal here to improve mobility, dose exercise appropriately, address stress management, sleep, maybe nutrition and even social connectedness. Depending on our beliefs about our injuries or issues, we may even need re-education about the current state of our pain.

Why Knowing the Difference Matters Understanding whether an injury is acute or chronic helps you figure out what to do next. When you twist your ankle on a hike, you know you need to address it differently. But if your knee has been hurting from too much physical activity too soon, you’ll need a more comprehensive plan to manage the pain and avoid future problems.

So, the next time you or someone you know gets injured, pay attention to whether it’s acute or chronic. Knowing the difference will guide you to make the right decisions about how to treat it and, ultimately, get back to your regular activities without unnecessary pain and discomfort. Stay safe and active!

Dealing with a new or old injury and you feel ready to get back to your STRONG and CONFIDENT self?

Click the button below to schedule a FREE talk with one of our expert team members. This call will be used to gather important information and point you in the right direction with your injury! We can help get you there, faster! 


Dr. Bryan Keith

Myomuv PT

We help active adults and athletes return to the activities they love without pain, without taking time off, and feeling more confident and capable than ever before.