What is Pain? Pain is an Output, not an Input. It is the combination of numerous factors that result in a conscious experience that demands your attention. In other words, pain is NOT damaged tissue stimulating pain nerves which send pain signals through pain nerves up to your brain. There’s much more to it.
Here are some of the factors that can contribute to your perception of pain:
- Injury & Inflammation – Tissue damage itself stimulates nerves that work through the spinal cord and may be perceived as pain.
- Neurophysiology – The way the nervous system works, the body’s threat sensors, how they interact at your spinal cord, and the pattern of activity (pain neuromatrix), can all impact your perception of pain. Your brain also has an internal medicine cabinet that can release some of the most powerful drugs known to help minimize pain. These are called endorphins & enkephalins.
- Pain Experience – Your perception of pain. There is good pain and bad pain. Past experiences with pain matter.
- Fear – Some may have no fear of pain when they experience pain, while others may be thinking about the worst possible outcomes because of the pain (catastrophizing).
- Knowledge About Pain – Understanding that pain is complex and much more than just damaged muscle, tendon, ligament, or joint tissue can help relieve the pain.
- Avoidance of Movement – Pulling back because of pain or fear of pain
- Deconditioning – Movements that are normally pain-free or don’t cause fatigue, may stimulate chronic pain. In other words, with fear and avoidance, your body can get out of shape; movements that usually don’t cause pain or fatigue, can cause pain.
- Emotions – When emotions are low, pain is typically less, and when emotions are high, the brain may put out the perception of pain.
- Hormones – Hormones like adrenalin and cortisol have been shown to impact pain.
- Stress – Family, financial, and work stress all play a role in the perception of pain.
- Contributing Health Conditions – Anxiety & depression both can factor into chronic pain
- Sleep Habits – Proper sleep habits can certainly help with the perception of pain. Almost everyone has had a headache when they were tired. A headache doesn’t mean you have cancer, it means you didn’t get enough rest.
- Nutrition – Eating the proper foods can positively impact pain