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what is pain

Whether you are 18 or 80 years old does not matter, because most of us have already had pain. For some pain it is obvious where they come from, like back pain or menstrual pain.

Pain is an important alarm and protection signal of the body.

But what is pain and how do we feel it? To help you understand a little bit better, you will find answers to some very interesting questions.

WHY DO I FEEL PAIN?

The nervous system consists of nerve fibers, with nerve endings possessing receptors responsible for the pain sensation, the so-called nociceptors. The nerve fibers transmit to the brain what happens in the body and in the environment. In diseases or injuries, special transmitters are formed in the tissue which increases the sensitivity of the nociceptors. The nociceptors now send more signals to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. From there the brain is informed about this "alarm situation". Only through the processing of the incoming signals we feel pain18.

Experts distinguish between acute and chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as “any pain that persists beyond the anticipated time of healing.” Another differentiation you might have heard of are the terms “nociceptive pain” and “neuropathic pain”. Nociceptive pain is the pain caused by activation of so called nociceptors, which are sensory neurons found throughout the body. A nociceptor is “a receptor preferentially sensitive to a noxious, stimulus or to a stimulus which would become noxious if prolonged.” Neuropathic pain is “pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction of the nervous system.” Normal nociception would not be considered dysfunction of the nervous system. Chronic pain has a huge impact on the individual and society as a whole. It is the primary reason for delayed recovery. Most chronic pain problems start with an acute pain episode. Therefore, effective early care is important to avoid the chronic pain.

As we are all individuals, some people seem to be more sensitive to pain than others. Maybe you have observed that there is pain you can ignore or bare easily while the tolerance to other sorts of pain is very low. One of the reasons for this is perception. The brain works associatively - that is, if you have had a painful experience in the past, your brain can link any future pain with it. Thus, coping with new pain becomes more difficult. The pain threshold is also affected by emotions. The pain threshold may be lower for depression or anxiety. Strong emotions on the other hand - such as fear or excitement, can increase the pain threshold, which can reduce the feeling of pain.


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