Pain modulation

Pain is a feeling just like touch. It arises when a certain sensory nerve termed noiceptors (i.e. pain receptors) are activated. In the same way, mechanoceptors (mechanical touch receptors) enable us to feel the pressure of an object on our skin. The pain receptors can be activated in 3 ways:

  1. Compression – when an internal (e.g. a muscle) or external (e.g. a garden slab) object places a mechanical pressure on the pain receptor.
  2. Chemical – the release of specific chemicals within the body. These are commonly associated with inflammation which is created when there is cellular damage.
  3. Ischemic – the reduction in blood flow to the receptor. This affects its overall health and therefore it becomes activated.

Once registered the signal is sent through to our higher centres (our brain) where it is enhanced or diminished. This is determined by our:

  • Emotion at the time,
  • Fears attached to the pain (e.g. if we are fearful that the chest pain is part of a heart attack it will feel more painful than if we know it is just wind!)
  • What is happening around us (e.g. if you sprain your ankle whilst looking after a young child it will be less painful then if you are out with your friends.
  • Past experiences with pain (e.g. rugby players or builders/ farmers can be good at dealing with physical pain because they experience it regularly. However they may respond very differently if they have a problem with their internal organs).

So remember pain is controllable. To keep it to its absolute minimum remain positive, create constructive surroundings and do not fear it but understand it.