Why Do We Feel Pain
Why Do I Have Pain? Waking up with a sore throat that really hurts when you swallow. Jamming your finger at basketball practice. Playing a video game for so long that your wrist aches. These situations are different, but they have one thing in common: They all make you say “ouch!” When your body is injured in some way or something else is wrong, your nerves (cells that help your body send and receive information) send millions of messages to your about what’s going on.
- Your brain then makes you feel pain.
- So if you put your hand on a hot stove, your nerves call your brain, and your brain quickly sends the message that your hand hurts.
- You get this message and pull your hand away from the hot stove, which saves your hand from further injury.
- People don’t come with warning lights, like the lights on a car dashboard that let the driver know when the car is low on oil or gas.
We need the sensation of pain to let us know when our bodies need extra care. It’s an important signal. When we sense pain, we pay attention to our bodies and can take steps to fix what hurts. Pain also may prevent us from injuring a body part even more.
If it didn’t hurt to walk on a broken leg, a person might keep using it and cause more damage. If your throat is really sore, you’ll probably go to the doctor, who can treat the infection if you have one. Doctors and other health professionals use a person’s pain as a clue in figuring out what is wrong.
The first question you will probably be asked is: “how much pain do you have?” or “how much does it hurt?” Often a nurse will show you some pictures of faces with smiles or tears so that you can choose the one that matches how you feel. This will help your doctor or nurse know how much you hurt.
Where does it hurt? Does it hurt all the time? When did it start hurting? Does the pain stay in one place or move around? Does anything make the pain feel better? What makes it worse?
They ask these questions because they want what you want: for the pain to go away! If pain doesn’t go away on its own, often a doctor can suggest medicine or other treatments that will make you feel better until it does. : Why Do I Have Pain?
- 1 What is the purpose of pain in the body?
- 2 Is it possible to not feel pain?
- 3 What type of pain feels good?
- 4 Is pain a part of healing?
What causes the feeling of pain?
People feel pain when signals travel through nerve fibers to the brain for interpretation. It is often the result of tissue damage and allows the body to react to and prevent harm. The experience of pain is different for every person, and there are various ways to feel and describe pain.
- This variation can, in some cases, make it challenging to define and treat pain.
- Pain can be short- or long-term and stay in one place or spread around the body.
- In this article, we look at the different causes and types of pain, ways to diagnose it, and how to manage the sensation.
- People feel pain when specific nerves called nociceptors detect tissue damage and transmit information about the damage along the spinal cord to the brain.
For example, touching a hot surface will send a message through a reflex arc in the spinal cord and cause an immediate contraction of the muscles. This contraction will pull the hand away from the hot surface, limiting further damage. This reflex occurs before the message reaches the brain.
- Once the pain message arrives, it causes an individual to feel an unpleasant sensation — pain.
- The brain’s interpretation of these signals and the efficiency of the communication channel between the nociceptors and the brain dictate how an individual experiences pain.
- The brain may also release feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine, to counter the unpleasant effects of pain.
In 2011, researchers estimated that pain costs the United States between $560 billion and $635 billion each year in treatment costs, lost wages, and missed days of work. Pain can be either acute or chronic,
What is the purpose of pain in the body?
Simply, pain warns us of potential danger to tissue harm or to the presence of injury. This insult can be within or outside the nervous system, physical or chemical, visible or not. Although the characteristics of pain may differ, the role is still the same; pain is the body’s alert system.
Is it possible to not feel pain?
Introduction – Pain alters the quality of life more than any other health-related problem, and it is one of the implements of body protection. It interferes with sleep, mobility, nutrition, thought, sexual activity, emotional well-being, creativity, and self-actualization.
- Congenital insensitivity to pain is a rare disorder, first described in 1932 by Dearborn as Congenital pure analgesia.
- Congenital insensitivity to pain and anhydrosis (CIPA) is a very rare and extremely dangerous condition.
- People with CIPA cannot feel pain,
- Pain-sensing nerves in these patients are not properly connected in parts of brain that receive the pain messages.
CIPA is extremely dangerous, and in most cases the patient doesn’t live over age of 25. Although some of them can live a fairly normal life, they must constantly check for cuts, bruises, self-mutilations, and other possible unfelt injuries. Self-mutilation is an almost invariable feature of this disorder, most often involving the teeth, lips, tongue, ears, eyes, nose, and fingers.
Is pain necessary for humans?
The Good, the Bad and the Strange of Physical Pain Most people struggle with pain at some point in their life, and when it gets bad enough it can be a debilitating condition. However, while pain has its obvious and sometimes devastating downside, our ability to feel physical pain is also part of maintaining our health.
For a time, physicians even referred to pain as “the fifth vital sign,” because it can be important to understanding the state of a person’s health and point to the presence of disease. When our pain receptors are working effectively, pain is a useful way for our bodies to tell our brains when a stimulus is a threat to our overall well-being.
However, sometimes pain stops playing a protective role. can occur when a medical professional is unable to effectively treat the underlying condition causing the pain, but it can also happen when there isn’t an underlying disease at all. At that point, pain ceases to be an effective indicator that something is wrong with the body and becomes a disease unto itself.
The Biology of Pain Understanding how pain can go from a useful, if unwelcome, stimulus to a serious malady requires understanding the biology behind pain. And that biology begins with the distinction between the central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system is made up of sensory and motor nerves.
The peripheral nervous system uses a variety of receptors to gather stimuli that they pass on to the brain. When it comes to pain, the most important are called nociceptors. Nociceptors are peripheral sensory neurons, commonly referred to as, They help tell when the body is being damaged.
The signals between the nociceptors and the brain are the basis of what we interpret as pain. How Nociceptors Work Nociceptors can be activated in a variety of ways. Hit your knee on the edge of a coffee table and nociceptors notice the excessive pressure and fire off immediately, telling your brain about the threatening stimulus.
Sometimes the messages nociceptors send to the central nervous system are used by the spinal column to initiate a reaction before you even feel pain. For example, if you put your hand on a hot stove, you might notice that you jerk your hand away even before you “feel” anything.
Nociceptors aren’t just affected by external stimuli. They can also be activated by things happening inside your body. If you have a cut that gets infected, it often hurts even if you don’t touch the wound. That’s because your body’s to the cut stimulates nociceptors. The inflammatory response releases a host of naturally occurring chemical messengers that are designed to let the nociceptors communicate the feeling of pain to the central nervous system.
These messengers include several different types of chemicals, including and a substance called nerve growth factor (NGF). Recent research into controlling pain has focused on controlling some of these messengers. It’s About More Than Just Nerves But a person can feel pain even if nociceptors, cytokines and NGF aren’t involved.
In fact, people report feeling pain in places they don’t even have nociceptors. Some of the best-known examples of this type of pain, often called phantom pain, come from people who feel pain in limbs that have been amputated. How can people feel pain in a limb they no longer have? Studies show that the parts of the brain that interpret signals from nociceptors can be activated even without external stimuli.
In fact, MRI and PET scans show the portions of the brain that used to receive input from the nociceptors in an amputated limb have increased activity during an episode of phantom pain. The existence of phantom pain is a testament to the complexity of physical pain.
Can you mentally stop pain?
Only Certain Kinds Of Pain Can Be Controlled With Your Mind – It’s first worth noting that not all kinds of pain can be tackled with our minds. Acute pain and chronic pain can, however, be addressed with your thoughts, Tolman says. “Now keep in mind if you walk into therapy with a broken arm, it’s not going to take that pain away,” she says.
- But chronic pain and pain without a source can be managed with your thoughts.
- There is a big emotional tie between pain and your thoughts, and by altering your thoughts you can alter the pain.” The CDC estimates that 20.4% of US adults live with chronic pain.
- And STAT reports that the most significant drivers in chronic pain are migraines, arthritis, and nerve damage — as well as emotional trauma.
Jeannie Sperry, a psychologist who specialises in pain rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic, said that it’s rare for people to have chronic pain without also having anxiety or depression. “Often times, a person who experiences chronic pain will report that this pain becomes a part of their identity,” Tolman says.
Can you train yourself to not feel pain?
6 ways to use your mind to control pain – Harvard Health
|Meditation with guided imagery, which often involves imagining yourself in a restful environment, may reduce your need for pain medication.|
Drugs are very good at getting rid of pain, but they often have unpleasant, and even serious, side effects when used for a long time. If you have backache,, arthritis, or other chronic pain that interferes with your daily life, you may be looking for a way to relieve discomfort that doesn’t involve drugs.
- Some age-old techniques—including meditation and yoga—as well as newer variations may help reduce your need for pain medication.
- Research suggests that because pain involves both the mind and the body, mind-body therapies may have the capacity to alleviate pain by changing the way you perceive it.
- How you feel pain is influenced by your genetic makeup, emotions, personality, and lifestyle.
It’s also influenced by past experience. If you’ve been in pain for a while, your brain may have rewired itself to perceive pain signals even after the signals aren’t being sent anymore. The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital specializes in helping people learn techniques to alleviate stress, anxiety, and pain.
Dr. Ellen Slawsby, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who works with patients at the Benson-Henry Institute, suggests learning several techniques so that you can settle on the ones that work best for you. “I tend to think of these techniques as similar to flavors in an ice cream store.
Depending on your mood,you might want a different flavor of ice cream—or a different technique,” Dr. Slawsby says. “Practicing a combination of mind-body skills increases the effectiveness of pain relief.” The following techniques can help you take your mind off the pain and may help to override established pain signals.1.
- Deep breathing.
- It’s central to all the techniques, so deep breathing is the one to learn first.
- Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale.
- To help you focus, you can use a word or phrase to guide you.
- For example, you may want to breathe in “peace” and breathe out “tension.” There are also several apps for smartphones and tablets that use sound and images to help you maintain breathing rhythms.2.
Eliciting the relaxation response. An antidote to the stress response, which pumps up heart rate and puts the body’s systems on high alert, the relaxation response turns down your body’s reactions. After closing your eyes and relaxing all your muscles, concentrate on deep breathing.
- When thoughts break through, say “refresh,” and return to the breathing repetition.
- Continue doing this for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Afterward, sit quietly for a minute or two while your thoughts return.
- Then open your eyes and sit quietly for another minute.3.
- Meditation with guided imagery.
- Begin deep breathing, paying attention to each breath.
Then listen to calming music or imagine being in a restful environment. If you find your mind wandering, say “refresh,” and call the image back into focus.4. Mindfulness. Pick any activity you enjoy—reading poetry, walking in nature, gardening, or cooking—and become fully immersed in it.
Notice every detail of what you are doing and how your senses and emotions are responding. Practice bringing mindfulness to all aspects of your life.5. Yoga and tai chi. These mind-body exercises incorporate breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. Videos and apps can help you get started.
If you enroll in a yoga or tai chi class at a gym or health club, your health insurance may subsidize the cost.6. Positive thinking. “When we’re ill, we often tend to become fixated on what we aren’t able to do. Retraining your focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t will give you a more accurate view of yourself and the world at large,” says Dr.
- Slawsby. She advises keeping a journal in which you list all the things you are thankful for each day.
- We may have limitations, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still whole human beings.” Image: Thinkstock As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content.
Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. : 6 ways to use your mind to control pain – Harvard Health
Can you build a tolerance to pain?
Feeling Pain – Why can two people have the exact same physical condition, and the pain be merely an annoyance for one while sheer agony for the other? Several studies have found pain is as unique as the individual. An American Pain Society study discovered differences in patient biological, psychological and sociocultural factors can cause vast differences in post-operative pain.
A New Zealand study found cultural differences influenced pain perception between study participants. Other studies reinforce findings that biological, psychological, and emotional factors can all impact how similar pain is perceived by different individuals. The mind and emotions can either moderate or intensify pain; however, chronic pain can cause hypersensitization.
Doctors know chronic pain changes the way the spinal cord, nerves, and brain process unpleasant stimuli. Past experiences, as well as trauma, can influence a person’s sensitivity and perception of pain. Pain researchers believe regular exposure to painful stimuli can increase one’s pain tolerance.
Who is the girl who can’t feel any pain?
Image source, Peter Jolly/REX/Shutterstock Jo Cameron only realises her skin is burning when she smells singed flesh. She often burns her arms on the oven, but feels no pain to warn her. That’s because she is one of only two people in the world known to have a rare genetic mutation.
It means she feels virtually no pain, and never feels anxious or afraid. It wasn’t until she was 65 she realised she was different – when doctors couldn’t believe she didn’t need painkillers after a serious operation. When she had surgery on her hand, doctors warned her she should expect pain afterwards.
Image source, Jo Cameron Image caption, Jo Cameron (left) was 65 when she realised she was different When she felt nothing, her anaesthetist – Dr Devjit Srivastava – sent her to pain geneticists at University College London (UCL) and Oxford University.
Why does a massage hurt so good?
Your Brain Releases Feel-Good Chemicals and Pain Diminishes – The therapist’s touch causes an immediate reaction in your brain. As soon as your skin’s nerve cells feel pressure, they signal the brain to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which boost your mood and give you a natural high.
- As a result, stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline begin to decrease and the overall effect is one of euphoria and bliss.
- If you have real aches or pains, the morphine-like effect from the endorphins will help diminish them by blocking pain signals from the brain.
- And if your muscles are sore after a rigorous workout, a good rubdown will actually help them heal faster.
Researchers found that massage decreases the inflammation caused by exercise and increases the occurrence of cell repair. Many massage professionals use aromatherapy during their treatments by applying fragrant essential oils to your bare skin. These oils complement the therapist’s soothing touch and they smell good, but they also stimulate specific brain activity.
Grapefruit oil can encourage the production of enkephalins, neurotransmitters that act as natural painkillers, while the oil from marjoram can boost your levels of serotonin, helping you feel calm. Lavender is one of the most familiar oils and is known to promote relaxation and sleepiness. And oil extracted from the tropical plant ylang-ylang triggers the release of those feel-good endorphins mentioned earlier.
Try using essential oils at home by drizzling your favorite into a bath or adding it to your unscented body lotion. As the oil combines with the hot water or the heat of your skin, its scent intensifies.
What type of pain feels good?
What is good pain? – One of the most common forms of “good pain” is what doctors and physiotherapists may refer to as “delayed onset muscle soreness”. This happens when you’ve challenged a muscle with something it’s not used to; new, returning or increased exercise.
Within one to two days, you’ll start to feel soreness in the area and it may be tender to touch. But, the soreness goes away quickly after that. The pain comes from micro trauma in the muscle caused by rigorous exercise. This is not a bad thing. A muscle gets stronger, building denser tissue, when it has a reason to remodel itself.
When it senses the tiny trauma, the muscle repairs tissue to allow for more endurance. The key here is the “micro” part of “trauma”.
Is pain a part of healing?
Acute Pain and the Healing Process – Mayo Clinic Press Pain is a normal, expected part of the healing process following surgery, a procedure, an injury or an illness. Pain lets you know you’ve had an “injury” to your body. Having pain does not always mean that something is wrong or that you’re having complications.
Pain usually gets better as you heal, but it is more likely to do so if you take certain steps. Being active and working to regain function can contribute to healing and reducing pain. Having pain can be exhausting and difficult to manage on your own. Talk with your health care provider about your pain so you can work together to create a safe plan to help you manage pain as you heal.
The plan may include both non-medication and medication options. The goal is to help you take part in various activities and regain function. Pain is usually referred to as acute or chronic. Acute pain is a sudden, short-term episode of pain. Examples include pain after surgery or pain from an injury such as a broken bone.
- Acute pain decreases naturally as your body heals and generally lasts only for hours or days.
- Pain is called chronic when it lasts for months or years, and it does not necessarily follow the natural pattern of improvement with healing.
- Another term you may hear for pain is called “acute pain on top of chronic pain.” This happens when you have acute pain from an injury, illness, surgery or procedure in addition to an existing chronic pain condition such as arthritis.
Your health care provider may adjust your chronic pain care plan temporarily while you have acute pain, but it is important you try to maintain the usual methods you use to manage chronic pain during this time. While dealing with pain is challenging, try not to let it overwhelm you.
Fear, anxiety and focus on pain can actually make pain worse. Remember that you do not have to deal with pain alone. Your health care team works with you to help you safely manage your pain. The first step in setting up a plan to ease your acute pain is for you to talk with your health care provider about how your pain affects your ability to be active.
This is the best way to be sure you can take part in activities that help you heal. Your health care provider can set up a plan that may include several methods to ease your pain, including:
Pain-reducing strategies that don’t involve taking medication. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Prescription medications such as opioids and other medications.
It’s important to follow the pain care plan carefully. Easing acute pain does not mean taking it away completely. The goal is to manage your symptoms so that you can do what you need to do every day. Do activities that do not involve taking medication There are steps you can take to help you regain function that have been proven to improve healing.
Your health care provider may also suggest other resources meant to help your body heal and reduce pain such as guided meditation, relaxation, listening to music, imagery and breathing exercises.Talk with your provider about how to get started doing these methods of pain management. Create a healing environment
While you heal from an injury, you may feel anxious, tired or have an upset stomach. These feelings can increase your pain. Try to:
Prepare a comfortable environment for you to sleep in, such as a quiet, dark, cool room. Set aside quiet time. Set up specific times for visitors to see you so that you also have time for rest. Take people up on their offers to help. Use ear plugs or a sleep mask when you sleep or rest. Follow a routine as much as you are able, such as:
Get out of bed for meals if possible. Follow a daily self-care routine, such as getting dressed. Participate in activities that your health care provider recommends. Do activities that distract you from thinking about pain.
Take over-the-counter medications as directed Medications, such as acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol™) and ibuprofen (for example, Advil™), may be a part of your pain care plan. These medications are not opioid medications. Ask your provider if these medications are right for you.
If you are going to have surgery, sometimes your provider may recommend you start taking over-the-counter medications a few days before the procedure. Your provider may also recommend you take them on a scheduled basis for a few days afterwards to actively manage your pain and prevent it from becoming too intense.
Ask your provider about specific instructions related to over-the-counter medications. While you take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, make sure you’re not taking any other over-the-counter medication that contains acetaminophen or ibuprofen, such as certain cold medications.
Read the packages for ingredients or talk with a pharmacist to be sure. About opioid medications Opioid medications, also called “narcotics” or “pain killers,” work by dulling the brain’s sense of pain. Opioids are strong medications that have the risk of addiction and have serious side effects and complications, including death.
They are usually recommended to reduce severe, acute pain for a short time. If your health care provider has included opioids in your pain care plan:
Use only enough opioid medication for a short time to manage acute pain and improve your activity level after an injury or surgery. Take non-opioid, over-the-counter medications as recommended to help decrease your need for opioid medication. Ask your provider or pharmacist about whether your opioid medication is already combined with over-the-counter medications. Wean off opioids as soon as possible to avoid side effects and the risk of addiction. Never take opioid medications to prevent pain unless specifically told to by your provider. Do not drink alcohol while you take opioids. Do not take more opioids than you’ve been prescribed. Do not combine your opioid with any other medications that make you sleepy, such as benzodiazepines or muscle relaxants, unless you have been told to do so by your health care provider. When you’re done taking opioids, you may have some leftover pills. To help prevent opioid abuse and protect the environment, safely dispose of all unused opioid medications.
Important! Before you take opioids, be sure to tell your health care provider about:
All medications or substances you take, including herbal products or dietary supplements. Whether you or a family member has had a substance-use disorder or a mood or anxiety disorder in the past or currently. These conditions greatly increase your risk of addiction to opioids. Whether you have any other medical conditions, especially ones related to your heart and lungs, as opioids may not be safe to use if you have these conditions.
The longer you use opioids, the higher your risk of developing other medical problems, including chronic pain. Many state laws now limit the amount of opioids that health care providers can prescribe for pain control and place some restrictions on opioid prescription refills.
Pain is a normal, expected part of the healing process. Pain usually gets better as you heal, but it is more likely to do so if you are active and work to regain function. Your health care provider can monitor your pain level and partner with you to create a plan to help you manage pain as you heal.
This material is for your education and information only. This content does not replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. New medical research may change this information. If you have questions about a medical condition, always talk with your health care provider.
© 2018 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.
MC7643rev1018 : Acute Pain and the Healing Process – Mayo Clinic Press