What is pain?

Photo of clouds shows how using the mind-body approach to pain pioneered by Dr. John Sarno dissipate chronic pain.

If you think you know what pain is, you might be surprised to learn more about it.

A study published in the “Journal of Pain Research” in 2021 suggests that pain is a complex experience that involves both physiological and psychological factors.

While we know that pain is a protector, many people may not understand the intricate processes of pain generation and management.

Think about the example of touching a hot stove or twisting an ankle. When we experience these injuries, the feeling of intense pain is generated as a signal that alerts us to the danger and prompts us to take action. This process occurs quickly, within a millisecond, as the brain receives signals of tissue damage from the nerves.

Pain is a choice

But did you know that pain is also a choice? Neuroscience research has shown that the brain decides which signals to pay attention to and which to ignore, depending on the perceived level of danger.

For example, if you were running from a lion and twisted your ankle, your brain may choose to ignore the pain signals in order to prioritize survival.

However, your clever brain can also cause problems when it doesn't turn off pain, leading to chronic pain even after an injury has healed.

Pain is a complex experience that involves both physical and emotional aspects. The physical aspect of pain occurs when the body senses tissue damage, sending signals through the nerves to the brain.

Psychology of pain

However, the emotional aspect of pain involves the brain's interpretation of these signals, as well as a person's past experiences, expectations, and beliefs about pain.

Research has shown that emotional factors can greatly influence the experience of pain. For example, a study published in the journal “Pain” in 2017 found that people who experienced social rejection reported higher levels of pain compared to those who did not experience rejection. This suggests that emotional distress can amplify the physical sensation of pain.

Moreover, psychological factors can also affect how people manage pain. For instance, a study published in the “Journal of Behavioral Medicine” in 2018 found that people who had a more positive outlook on life reported lower levels of pain intensity and disability compared to those who had a negative outlook. This indicates that having a positive mindset can play a role in reducing the impact of chronic pain on a person's life.

Neural circuit pain

It is important to note that all pain is real and that chronic pain is not something that people make up or fake. It is a real condition called neural circuit pain that requires proper understanding and treatment.

This may involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, counseling, and lifestyle changes to manage the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of pain.

Understanding the psychological and emotional aspects of pain can help you better manage chronic pain and improve your quality of life.

Seeking appropriate care and attention is crucial if you are experiencing chronic pain.