Encyclopedia of Pain

2007 Edition

Acute Pain, Subacute Pain and Chronic Pain

  • Wade King
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-29805-2_75


Pain of Recent Origin; Persisting Pain; Subacute Pain; chronic pain


Acute pain is pain that has been present for less than three months (Merskey 1979; Merskey and Bogduk 1994).  Chronic pain is pain that has been present for more than three months (Merskey 1979; Merskey and Bogduk 1994). Subacute pain is a subset of acute pain: it is pain that has been present for at least six weeks but less than three months (van Tulder et al. 1997).


Acute pain, subacute pain, and chronic pain are defined by units of time, but the concepts on which they are based are more fundamentally aetiological and prognostic.

Acute pain was first defined by Bonica, as “a complex constellation of unpleasant sensory, perceptual and emotional experiences and certain associated autonomic, physiologic, emotional and behavioural responses” (Bonica 1953). Bonica went on to say “invariably, acute pain and these associated responses are provoked by ... injury and/or disease ... or...

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wade King
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical ResearchRoyal Newcastle HospitalUniversity of NewcastleNSW, Australia