Published On: Fri, Mar 1st, 2019

More than Just a Feeling: Digging Deeper Into the Concept of Pain

Pain is as subjective as fear, love or anger. That is why there is no exact way to measure, describe or even define it. But pain has almost become a part of life. We feel it at some point, in different degrees and due to various causes. Therefore, it has become necessary—even an imperative—to understand pain and what can be done to manage, if not eliminate it altogether.

Defining pain: it’s more than just a feeling

When you say you’re in pain, you usually associate it with a part of your body. Let’s say you’re back is aching or you’re having a headache. But pain isn’t really just a feeling, it’s a sensation called nociception or the electrochemical signals that the body generates to respond to an injury.

So when you say that your back is aching due to an injury, that’s not pain in your back, that’s nociception. This term is not used often even in the medical field because it’s not easy to remember and can be hard to pronounce. That’s why doctors and common people refer to the sensation as pain.

Feeling pain: the different factors that affect sensation

The degree of injury isn’t always equal to the degree of pain felt by an individual because one’s response to pain is influenced by different factors:

  • Gender: According to research, women tend to experience pain more frequently and pain last longer and is more intense than what men feel.  
  • Genetics: A person’s genetic makeup can heavily influence his sensitivity to pain signals.
  • Psychological factors: Studies revealed that people with anxiety, depression or low self-esteem tend to feel more pain than regular individuals. The perception of pain is also worsened by exaggerated pessimism, which is present in people who have psychological problems.
  • Past experiences: Memories of painful experiences are believed to influence one’s perception of pain such as those with a dentist or a doctor.
  • Chronic health problems: Chronic illnesses such as migraine, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome can predispose an individual to more intense and long-lasting pains than those who don’t have them.
  • Social factors: Studies revealed that people who have lower income, lower educational levels and those who don’t have a job are more predisposed to pain.

 

Analyzing pain: the most common root causes

Pain can be caused by a lot of different things, but at its most basic level, it is due to the stimulation of nerve endings. Pain also occurs due to tissue or nerve damage, or because of unknown causes. No matter what the reason, the feeling of pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is going on in your body through your sensory nerve cells. They are also responsible for transmitting information to your other senses.

In the case of pain due to nerve damage, you will feel a different kind of sensation known as neuropathic pain, which is different from what you feel when you cut yourself. This is due to your damaged nerves misfiring and sending spontaneous pain signals that you may describe as the feeling of numbing, tingling or burning sensations. This is when you seek relief through CBD oil for pain or other alternative treatments to help soothe your feeling of pain. Patients with diabetes mellitus commonly feel neuropathic pain where they describe it as a “pins and needles” sensation.

Phantom limb pain or the pain felt on an amputated limb is also another type of neuropathic pain when both the spinal cord and peripheral nerves are activated aggressively and creates a process called sensitization.

 

Debunking pain myths: telling the truth from the lies

A lot of people say that pain is a made up thing, which means that it’s all in your head. Sure, pain is basically the brain’s response to an injury, but it is also influenced by several factors including anger, anxiety and stress.

Another common myth is the belief that medications can cure pain. Pain medications are given to patients who are experiencing pain to help reduce or alleviate their sensation. But pain medications are not the end-all-be-all of pain because they don’t cure the disease that caused that pain in the first place. This is especially true with some chronic pain conditions where there are no known cures just yet, but there are different treatments on how to manage them.

At its very core, pain is such a complex sensation that health experts are still studying it deeply to fully understand it. But one thing’s for sure, pain has a huge impact on someone’s life, especially if it happens often and in high intensities. The good news though is that pain is manageable through proper treatments and interventions.

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