Understanding pain – part 1
Learn about pain to get control over it
None of us want to experience pain, but pain remains a necessary part of life. It protects and alerts us. It forces us to do something. Pain is also an essential and normal part of most healing processes.
Is pain always linked to tissue damage?
No. You have lesions in your muscles, some of your joints are worn out, and a few vertebrae have developed bone spurs, without triggering your alarm signal. Pain coming from injured tissues is called nociception, which is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause pain. Think of amputees and “phantom limbs”. We often hear of them complaining about pain in their missing limb. A heartbreak can physically hurt, just as much as a punch in your guts.
So is it all in my head?
No. Every pain is real and has a tangible origin. The thing is, many ignition cues exist that can lead to pain. Tissue damage, thought, emotions, memories, prediction of future consequences… They can all stimulate your danger sensors. The goal is to make you aware of a situation and take action.
So what causes pain, then?
Pain is always an output of your brain. The brain decides if something is gonna hurt. Every time, without exception. If the brain believes you are at risk, the only way it has to communicate this information to you is by triggering pain. So no matter how annoying pain is, we could not live efficiently without it.
Why do I want to learn about pain?
We usually fear what we do not understand. Getting knowledge about pain and its underlying mechanisms helps to reduce its threat value. Remember, hurt does not mean harm. Most of the time, the pain signal is triggered way before you sustain any tissue damage - apart from an acute, unpredictable injury like an ankle sprain.
Stay tuned to learn more about pain!