Today we thought we would share some interesting facts about pain and pain origination. Obviously here at Mount Pleasant Spine Center we are often dealing with pain and the multifaceted ways in which it originates so we thought it would be good to discuss some facts about pain in order to better understand the complicated nature of pain.
- Pain is output from the brain.
Pain, at its essence, is a warning signal from the brain. While it used to be believed that pain originated within the tissues of our body, it is now understood that pain does not exist until the brain determines it does. The brain uses a virtual “road map” to direct an output of pain to tissues that it suspects may be in danger. This process acts as a means of communication between the brain and the tissues of the body, to serve as a defense against possible injury or disease. As the saying goes at the end of the day “the pain is in the brain.”
- The degree of injury does not always equal the degree of pain.
Research has demonstrated that we all experience pain in individual ways. While some of us experience major injuries with little pain, others experience minor injuries with a lot of pain (think of a paper cut). The varying amount of pain that any one individual experiences is subjective and can vary greatly from person to person.
- Despite what diagnostic imaging (MRIs, x-rays, CT scans) shows us, the finding(s) may not be the cause of your pain.
There is a multitude of research and literature that indicates that, although imaging is often quite helpful in helping to figure out a patient’s pain generator, what we find on diagnostic studies do not always match the degree of pain that a patient is experiencing. A study performed on individuals 60 years or older who had no symptoms of low back pain found that 36% had a herniated disc, 21% had spinal stenosis, and more than 90% had a degenerated or bulging disc, upon diagnostic imaging.
- Your social environment may influence your perception of pain.
Many patients state their pain increases when they are at work or in a stressful situation. Pain messages can be generated when an individual is in an environment or situation that the brain interprets as unsafe. It is a fundamental form of self-protection.
- There is no way of knowing whether you have a high tolerance for pain or not. Science has yet to determine whether we all experience pain in the same way.
While some people may say they have a “high tolerance” for pain, there is no accurate way to measure or compare pain tolerance among individuals. While some tools exist to measure how much force you can resist before experiencing pain, it cannot yet be determined what your pain “feels like.”
For more information regarding pain and pain management, or to make an appointment, please call of Mount Pleasant office at 843-416-8012.