Nursing diagnosis Acute pain

📖 Nursing diagnosis Acute pain ✍

Acute pain

Pain is the body's natural way of signaling that something is wrong, and acute pain is a sharp, often short-term, type of pain. Acute pain is usually related to tissue inflammation, muscle strain, or ligament sprain and can be either an isolated incident or ongoing. Although acute pain can range from mild to severe and is typically short term, it may last up to several weeks if not treated appropriately. It is important that proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of acute pain is undertaken—not only to reduce the pain itself, but also to improve the overall well-being of the patient.

Table of Contents

Nursing Diagnosis Definition

The nursing diagnosis for Acute Pain is defined as a “sudden onset of discomfort that is self-limiting or responsive to treatment”. It is further specified by providing the following characteristics: location and severity of pain, quality or type of pain, onset, duration and any associated risk factors.

Defining Characteristics

The defining characteristics of acute pain can be subjective or objective. Subjective characteristics include patient reports of pain, whereas objective characteristics include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Other objective characteristics include grimacing, crying, and verbal expressions of pain.

Subjective Characteristics

  • Reported pain intensity (mild to severe)
  • Duration of pain
  • Location of pain
  • Pain quality

Objective Characteristics

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Grimacing
  • Crying
  • Verbal expressions of pain

Related Factors

There are a number of factors which can contribute to the development of acute pain. These include medical conditions such as inflammation or infection, trauma due to physical activity or injury, overexertion of muscles or joints, physical weakness or immobility, and psychological issues such as stress or anxiety. It is important for practitioners to assess the various possible causes of pain when making a diagnosis.

Suggestions for Use of the Nursing Diagnosis

The nursing diagnosis for acute pain can be used by healthcare providers to assist in the assessment and management of a patient’s pain. Once a clinician has established a nursing diagnosis for Acute Pain, the next steps are to develop an individualized plan of care for the patient that includes interventions and goals to address the pain. Interventions can include physical techniques such as icing, heat application, massage, stretching, exercise, and/or the administration of medications or pain relief techniques. Additionally, relaxation techniques including biofeedback, deep breathing, meditation, and visual imagery, can be used to help reduce the pain.

Suggested Alternative Nursing Diagnosis

Alternate nursing diagnoses which can be used to describe common causes of acute pain include:

  • Psychological Stress-Related Sleep Disturbance
  • Disturbed Sensory Perception
  • Ineffective Coping
  • Noncompliance
  • Social Isolation
  • Powerlessness
  • Risk for Injury
  • Fatigue

Usage Tips

When selecting a nursing diagnosis for Acute Pain, it is important to consider the type and duration of the pain, presence of any underlying medical conditions, and risk factors for the development of pain (e.g., inadequate physical activity or mobility, stress, etc.). It is also important to consider the patient's current physical state as well as their desired outcomes.

NOC Outcomes

Nursing Outcomes Classification (NOC) provides a set of standardized, valid outcomes used to evaluate nursing care and measure patient progress over time. NOC outcomes related to Acute Pain include:

  • Pain Intensity (explains the patient’s experience of pain on a numerical scale)
  • Pain Control Behavior (intended to promote patient participation in self-care activities and appropriate use of analgesic medications)
  • Mobility (assesses whether the patient can move about comfortably)
  • Sleep (evaluates the patient’s ability to obtain and maintain sleep)
  • Physical comfort (measures how comfortably the patient is able to lie down and rest)
  • Health Beliefs (describes the patient's beliefs about their condition and its treatment)

Evaluation Objectives and Criteria

Effective evaluation and monitoring of acute pain should include:

  • Continuous assessment to identify the source and characteristics of the pain
  • Frequent monitoring of response to interventions
  • Full assessment of the patient's mobility, comfort, sleep, and health beliefs
  • Documenting the frequency and intensity of the pain
  • Comparison of pre- and post-intervention pain levels
  • Reassessment of patient responses to ensure adequate pain control

NIC Interventions

Nursing Interventions Classification (NIC) provides a set of standardized, valid nursing interventions that can be used to support assessment and treatment. NIC interventions related to Acute Pain include:

  • Monitoring pain (identifying and assessing the level of pain)
  • Relaxation therapy (encouraging the use of relaxation techniques to reduce pain)
  • Verbal guidance (providing reassurance, comfort and distraction from pain)
  • Medication management (education about medications and proper dosage)
  • Positioning (educating the patient about posture, body alignment and positioning)
  • Exercise therapy (stretching and strengthening exercises to improve flexibility and comfort)
  • Nutrition therapy (providing dietary advice and nutritional supplements to improve physical health)
  • Stress management (teaching coping skills to reduce stress and improve patient wellness)

Nursing Activities

In order to provide the best possible care to a patient presenting with acute pain, nurses should engage in the following activities:

  • Assessing and identifying the source and severity of the pain
  • Providing education about the cause and treatment of the pain
  • Administering analgesics to manage pain
  • Positioning the patient in a comfortable and relaxed position
  • Promoting physical activity and exercise, as appropriate
  • Providing emotional support and distraction
  • Monitoring and reassessing the patient's response to interventions
  • Instructing the patient on the proper use of medication, physical therapy, and other therapies


Acute pain is a sudden and often sharp pain. It can have multiple causes and can either be mild or severe in nature, although most cases are short-term. Proper assessment and diagnosis of acute pain is essential in order to provide effective treatment and reduce suffering. Healthcare providers need to be aware that there are a range of factors which can contribute to a patient's pain experience, and they should use the nursing diagnosis to assess and management of this condition.


1. What is acute pain?

Acute pain is a type of pain that is sharp and often short-term in nature. It may stem from tissue inflammation, muscle strain, or ligament sprain and is typically related to a specific source.

2. What are the characteristics of acute pain?

Characteristics of acute pain include complaints of pain or discomfort, facial expressions of pain, verbalizations of distress, changes in vital signs, increases in muscular tension, and avoidance behaviors. In addition, decreased range of motion or movement, tenderness or increased temperature at the area of pain, changes in posture, changes in resting behavior, inability to concentrate, and changes in mood or behavior may occur.

3. How is acute pain diagnosed?

Acute pain is diagnosed through a thorough assessment by a healthcare provider. This assessment includes noting the location and severity of the pain, the type of pain, onset, duration, and any associated risk factors.

4. What are some treatments for acute pain?

Treatments for acute pain may include physical techniques such as icing, heat application, massage, stretching, exercise as well as the use of medications or pain relief techniques. In addition, relaxation techniques such as biofeedback, deep breathing, meditation, and visual imagery can be helpful in reducing pain.

5. What are some common nursing diagnoses for acute pain?

Common nursing diagnoses for the management of acute pain include Psychological Stress-Related Sleep Disturbance, Disturbed Sensory Perception, Ineffective Coping, Noncompliance, Social Isolation, Powerlessness, Risk for Injury, Fatigue.

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