How Do We Really “Feel” Pain?

Physical pain is an unavoidable part of life. A cut finger, a migraine headache, a stubbed toe; we’ve all felt the ache and discomfort associated with pain. Feeling even a minor wound the moment it occurs can play a critical role in protecting us against a more serious injury. However, most of us don’t realize that the hurt we instantly feel when we pull a muscle or scrape our knees is actually a highly complicated and immediate display of our bodies and minds working in perfect, physical harmony.

Understanding The Pain Process: A Step-By-Step Breakdown

The perception of pain is a physiological function where the body relays negative stimulation from the site of impact, through the central nervous system, and ultimately to the brain for final administering. A basic breakdown of the pain development process includes:

Stimulus Contact

This is the place where the hurt or injury originates and is registered by the microscopic pain receptors found all over your skin.

Reception and Transmission

Every pain receptor helps form our bodies’ nerve endings, and are connected to our spinal cords by elongated nerve fibers or axons. After a pain receptor has been activated (made aware of the stimuli), it conveys the pain signal through the axon to our spinal cord, typically engaging multiple neurons as it transmits the stimuli from the central nervous system to the brain.

Brain Processing

Once the stimuli reach the brain, it gets passed along to the thalamus where it’s sorted and relayed to the appropriate part of the brain for processing. Pain signals may be sent to:

  • Limbic System (emotional response)
  • Somatosensory Cortex (physical stimulation)
  • Frontal Cortex (intelligence reaction)

Seem like an extremely sophisticated and complex sequence of events? It is. Fortunately for us, our brains can identify, receive, and transmit pain in mere fractions of a second, instantly alerting our bodies of potential dangers so we can alter our course of action and keep ourselves safe.

The Mind’s Role In How We Interpret Pain

Of course, not everyone experiences pain in the same way; our brains not only identify our hurts and injuries, but they also process several factors that play a role in our individual “pain thresholds.” Some key cognitive components that may influence our pain levels can include our current emotional and mental well-being, memories of previous injuries, expectations of pending discomfort, as well as our beliefs and values. Our brains interpret these factors along with the external stimuli for a personalized final pain experience that can differ from one person to the next.

Are you suffering from chronic pain? Chiropractic neurology can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced physicians today.

Leave a Comment