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17 Jun 2016

Understanding Pain

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June 17, 2016 Category: Health Posted by:

Understanding Pain

Before exploring and choosing long-term treatment options, consider these facts about pain:

1. Pain is output from the brain. While researchers used to believe that pain originated within the tissues of the body, newer evidence indicates that pain does not exist until the brain determines it does. The brain uses a virtual “road map” to direct an output of pain to tissues that it suspects may be in danger. This process acts as a means of communication between the brain and the tissues of the body to serve as a defense against possible injury or disease.

2. The degree of injury does not always equal the degree of pain. Research has demonstrated that people experience pain in individual ways. While some people experience major injuries with little pain, others experience minor injuries with a lot of pain.

3. Diagnostic imaging (MRIs, X-rays, CT scans) results may not show the cause of pain. A 2015 study in Spine, which analyzed MRI results of more than 1,200 individuals ages 20-70 who had no symptoms of lower-back pain, found that 87.6 percent suffered from bulging discs. Even most subjects in their 20s had bulging discs – 73.3 percent of males and 78 percent of females, respectively.

4. Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, can make pain worse. Pain can be influenced by many different factors, such as psychological conditions. A recent study in the Journal of Pain showed that psychological variables that existed prior to a total knee replacement were related to a patient’s experience of long-term pain following the operation.

5. Your social environment may influence your perception of pain. Many patients state their pain increases when they are at work or in a stressful situation. Pain messages can be generated when an individual is in an environment or situation that the brain interprets as unsafe. It is a fundamental form of self-protection.


6. Understanding pain through education may reduce your need for care. A large study conducted on military personnel demonstrated that those who were given a 45-minute educational session about pain sought care for lower-back pain less than their counterparts.

7. The brain can be tricked into developing pain in prosthetic limbs. Studies have shown that the brain can be tricked into developing a “referred” sensation in a limb that has been amputated, causing a feeling of pain that seems to come from the prosthetic limb – or from the “phantom” limb. The sensation is generated by the association of the brain’s perception of what the body is from birth (whole and complete) and what it currently is (post-amputation).

8. The ability to determine left from right may be altered when you experience pain. Networks within the brain that assist you in determining left from right can be affected when you experience severe pain. If you have been experiencing pain and have noticed your sense of direction is a bit off, it may be because the part of the brain that details a path to each part of the body may be impaired.

9. There is no way of knowing whether you have a high pain tolerance or not. While some people claim to have a “high tolerance” for pain, there is no accurate way to measure or compare pain tolerance among individuals. While some tools exist to measure how much force you can resist before experiencing pain, it can’t be determined what your pain “feels like.”

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