Within medical terminology, you may hear the terms “acute” and “chronic” being used. This blog post will help you to understand this jargon and the reasons why they are used to describe your condition.
Acute conditions are often described as those that have a rapid onset, or last for a short period, usually fully resolving. Examples of these acute injuries could be broken bones or ankle sprains. They are temporarily disabling, requiring either conservative or surgical treatment, however in the majority of cases, function would restore to normal.
Chronic, in layman’s terms, is the opposite of acute. The World Health Organisation classifies chronic as being a term used to describe a persistent or long-lasting condition, which generally lasts for longer than 3 months. Conditions, which are initially acute, can develop into chronic problems. For example, if you have multiple ankle sprains, this can result in laxity and damage to the surrounding tissues, leading to further ankle sprains and ‘chronic instability’. This is where the repetitive acute injuries have led to a chronic deformity of the structures around the ankle.
A common mistake in describing a medical condition as being chronic is where the symptoms reoccur within a period of remission between each event. This is more appropriately described as “recurrent”. Using the same example as above, you wouldn’t necessarily be diagnosed with a ‘chronic ankle sprain’. The problem is due to recurrent injuries.
Diagnosis of chronic conditions can have a psychological affect on patients, where they know they will be susceptible to further injury and are aware of a potentially a progressive nature of their disorder/injury. Physiotherapists can help you with the problems associated through this diagnosis with advice and counselling during your treatment sessions.
With physiotherapy, you can prevent the recurrence of acute injuries by modifying movement patterns that are causing you damage. We can work with you to help identify the reasoning behind your acute injuries before chronic deformities arise, as well as comforting the areas affecting by chronic symptoms. With advice, exercise and manual techniques (such as massage), the pain and symptoms of some chronic conditions can be alleviated.
Have you had any of our therapists help with a chronic problem? What did you find beneficial? Let us know in the comments section below.