The English word ‘Pain’ has its roots in the Latin poena meaning ‘punishment, penalty or retribution’. It's no surprise then, that when we think about pain, we think of it as a negative experience - Pain as ENEMY.
The pain is killing me.
I'm fighting this pain.
This pain is stabbing, burning, shooting...
But this view of pain is wrong. Pain as PROTECTOR is more apt and biologically correct. Pain is a necessary part of life. It is the brain's alarm system that alerts us to danger and protects us from harm. Pain is actually a good thing. It's important when you are injured, and it also helps diagnose problems. Yes, pain can be unpleasant. It needs to be to get you to change your behavior. Without pain, we could die.
Are there situations where pain is even our friend? Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) patients can lose the sensation of pain due to damaged peripheral nerves. As a result, they suffer medical complications and death due to the absence of pain signals. For the leper, the sensation of pain is a gift.
So pain is actually a defender, not an offender. It's there to protect you. But, in some situations, pain becomes more complicated. This happens when your pain system starts to malfunction, and creates too much pain. This is called Central Sensitization. We will discuss this in Pain Byte #3.
I hope you enjoyed this interesting byte of pain science and that it helps change how you think about your pain!
This PAIN BYTE is adapted from "Explain Pain Supercharged", by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley of Neuro Orthopaedic Institute. Neuroscience nuggets are information nuggets – short, quick, chunks of information, related to an interesting bit of neuroscience.