How we come to feel and experience pain
In Part 1 we touched on the necessity of pain and how it is essential to our survival – our own alarm system which lets us know we have been hurt somewhere on our body.
We all know when we experience pain it is an unpleasant experience but did you know it is also a sensory and emotional experience.
Say you twist your ankle playing rugby, within your body tissues, there are tiny nociceptors which pick up damage through the inflammatory process. ‘Danger messages’ sent by the nociceptors travel up through your nervous system to the spinal cord and into your brain. It is here that the brain will decide what to do with these messages.
The brain will evaluate the situation by drawing on your beliefs or emotions, and any past experiences ‘have I felt this pain before’. It is trying to answer - how dangerous is this really??
If the brain perceives there is nothing to worry about, danger messages will be turned down, and little or no pain is felt. However, if the brain perceives there is damage or threat to the body, and you need to know about it, it will make that body part hurt. Essentially the brain modifies your pain like a volume dial on a stereo, turning pain up or down.
Next month, in the truth about pain – Part 3, we will learn about why we become so sensitive to pain.