We have all experienced pain sometime in our lives. Pain can be a protective measure that helps us know something is wrong. However, when pain lasts for a long time, it can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. 1 in 5 Canadians live with chronic pain and it is one of the major sources of disability in the country. In this article, we will break down a bit of the science behind pain.
In our skin, tissue and organs, there are nerve cells that sense harmful substances. These nerve cells, called nociceptors, will send a message to the brain that we perceive as pain. Nociception causes sudden, short-lasting pain.
Nociception is also responsible for a protective mechanism called the withdrawal reflex. When we come in contact with something harmful, like stepping on a tack or touching a hot pot, our bodies react moving away from the “danger” without even thinking. Shortly after this reflex, the nociceptors send messages to the brain to recognize that experience as a painful experience which helps us learn not to do it again.
Chemical Signaling of Pain
In addition to the nerve stimulation of pain through nociception, there are also chemical messengers that are released. These chemicals are released around the “problem areas” and can cause inflammation and make the nociceptors more sensitive to pain. These chemicals signal the body’s immune cells to gather at the problem area, provide nutrients and promote healing.
Chronic pain is pain lasting longer than 3 months. It is a very complex problem and can be debilitating to almost all aspects of a person’s life. There are many different causes and body systems involved. Some of the different reasons why a person may be experiencing chronic pain include…
- increased sensitivity of the pain nerve fibres
- the body not being able to block pain signals after there is no longer the threat
- An underlying issue that causes pain (ex: fibromyalgia, nerve damage and arthritis)
There are many other reasons that may cause chronic pain as well. Chronic pain management requires an in-depth investigation and a multimodal approach. At Natural Terrain, Dr. Mason-Wood treats chronic pain. Book your appointment today!