Understanding The Mechanisms of Pain

It’s safe to say most of us are not really fans of pain. However it is one of the body’s most important ways for communication. Imagine, for instance, what would happen if you felt nothing when you put your hand in hot water, or burned your neck with a curling iron , or hit your thumb with a hammer and never felt that pain signal.

Pain is one way the body tells you something’s wrong and needs attention.

But pain whether it comes from a burn, a broken bone, surgery, joint replacement or a long-term illness is also an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience.

It has multiple causes, and people respond to it in multiple and individual ways. The pain that you push your way through might be incapacitating to someone else. Pain can make us mentally exhausted and sad if we experience it for to long.

Acute Pain and Chronic Pain

There are several ways to categorize pain. One is to separate it into acute pain and chronic pain.

Acute pain typically comes on suddenly and has a limited duration. It’s frequently caused by damage to tissue such as bone, skin, muscle, or organs, and the onset is often accompanied by anxiety or emotional distress.

Chronic pain lasts longer than acute pain and is generally somewhat resistant to medical treatment. It’s usually associated with a long-term illness, such as osteoarthritis. In some cases, such as with fibromyalgia, it’s one of the defining characteristic of the disease. Chronic pain can be the result of damaged tissue, but very often is attributable to nerve damage.

Just as there are different types of arthritis, there are also different types of pain. The pain you experience can come from various areas of the musculoskeletal system and involve different types of information processing. To learn more about the basics of the nervous system and pain.

Nociceptive Pain

What a odd word I never heard of this word until I was doing research on pain.

This is the normal mechanism that the body uses to process pain day to day. Nociceptive pain occurs when tiny nerves (nociceptors) that run on the surface of organs, muscles, joints and throughout the body are stimulated. These messages are carried by nerves to the brain. For example, when you bang your elbow, you feel nociceptive pain.

Mechanical Pain. Nociceptive pain that happens with stretch or pressure in and around joints is called mechanical pain. Osteoarthritis, low back disorders and tendinitis are common examples of mechanical pain.

Inflammatory Pain. Inflammation is an essential process that helps the body respond to and heal an injury. But it also activates nerves and causes pain. When joints are inflamed, damage to bone, muscles and cartilage (the slick surface between bones of the joints) can occur. Examples of inflammatory arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout and ankylosing spondylitis.

Neuropathic pain happens when there’s too much or persistent pressure on nerves or they are damaged. It’s often described as burning, tingling, shooting, stinging or as “pins and needles.” Some people may describe a stabbing, piercing, cutting or drilling pain. An example of this type of pain is sciatic pain due to irritation of the sciatic nerve by a disc or bone spur. The pain starts at an area of the spine in the lower back and can run across the hip and buttock and down the leg.

 

Centralized pain was first used to describe pain that happens when the central nervous system (brain, brainstem, spinal cord) is damaged. It now is used to describe any pain that happens when the central nervous system doesn’t work properly and amplifies or increases the volume of pain. Other terms used to describe this condition include “central sensitization,” “central amplification” and “central pain syndrome.” Several common conditions, such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and temporomandibular joint disorder are examples. Arthritis joint pain can also become centralized in some people, especially if it is long-lasting.

Psychogenic pain is an older term for what happens when emotions cause pain in the body, make existing pain worse or make it last longer. As doctors learn more about how the central nervous system works, fewer types of pain are put in this category. For example, fibromyalgia was once considered psychogenic, but new discoveries have shown problems with pain processing in fibromyalgia. Headache, muscle pain and low back pain are commonly influenced by your emotions.

Wishing you a pain free day

Deb

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