There is a crazy amount of diseases, dysfunctions, and injuries that the human body can go through. Pain is associated with nearly every single one of them. Pain can be defined as a localized or generalized unpleasant bodily sensation that causes mild to severe physical discomfort. Furthermore, it is an emotional experience. Pain sensation is a remarkable property of humans. It is beneficial for our body’s defense system and is important. Read about the role of Estrogen in the body
What’s the purpose of pain?
Obviously, pain is not something that most of us go out of our way to experience. But think for a moment, what would life be like if you could not feel pain at all. In fact, there are people who suffer from this very problem. They have a rare genetic disorder called congenital insensitivity to pain and that is where they can’t feel pain in their peripheral nervous system like hands and feet.
Imagine not being able to feel yourself burning or getting cut or maybe even a bone break. Likewise, you can see already that this is a pretty big problem and that leads us into what the purposes of pain are in the first place.
Pain acts as a warning system. It is alerting you to the fact that something is wrong or maybe you should stop doing what you are doing because it is only going to get worse. At the same time, pain is also an effective learning tool. We have heard that very cliche story of a child putting their hand on a hot stove, pulling back, and then realizing “I probably should not touch that in the future”. Just think to yourself for a moment as undesirable as pain may be, it is there for a very specific reason.
When does something become painful?
To fully understand the sensation of pain, we need to first think about other sensations that we experience every single day. These are going to be things like sensing temperature or sensing chemicals or even pressure. As a quick little experiment, if put your arm out in front of you and then with your hands just barely touch the hair on your arm. As you do that, you are going to be bending the hairs and that is going to deform the hair follicle that it is growing inside of. Then there is a sensory neuron that is going to send a signal based on that deformation and you are going to feel light touch.
Now if you place your hand onto the arm’s skin and start pushing into it, you are now triggering a different sensory receptor. This is called pressure. Inside of your muscles, you have other sensory neurons that are relaying positional information. This is called proprioception.
You can also sense temperature. If you are feeling something is warm on your skin but you feel this within a certain and specific range. In fact, your skin can sense the temperature up to around 52 degrees Celcius. As long as you are experiencing the temperature up to that range, there is not any kind of tissue damage. Once you start going out of that range, that is when you are going to deal with the pain.
Your body literally creates its own painkiller called Endogenous Opioids. These natural painkillers are primarily produced in the brain and have multiple actions throughout the body. These chemicals just act like opioid drugs, attaching to opioid receptors in your brain. It is very fascinating to think that your body does this on its own.
Pain is only in my head?
Yes, pain is entirely in your head. There is a real easy way to think about it. You might have heard about Phantom sensations. Amputees have talked about, for years the fact that they will feel sometimes pain or maybe an itch in a limb that has been removed. This will make perfect sense to you if you think about the sensory cortex region in the brain. The sensory cortex region is responsible for all kinds of sensations. Even though the limb has been amputated, the sensory cortex region of the brain is still there. So, what can happen is those neurons can fire inside of the brain and that can send strange and sometimes painful sensations to the amputee. So, this just really goes to show how subjective the pain is.
The actual perception of pain is something that we are still learning about. There are different theories surrounding the perception of pain going back thousands of years all the way up to just a few years ago. Just coming up with new theories trying to understand how pain is perceived.
Are painkiller medications safe?
Many painkillers are available from pharmacies without a prescription. They can provide effective pain relief, but might also cause side effects or complications. They should not be used for more than a few days in a row and the specified maximum daily dose should not be exceeded.
Opioid painkillers can be a good choice in certain situations such as if you are suffering from cancer pain.
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