While pain is a relative sensation, one thing is certain: At some point in their lives, all people will experience some form of pain. Pain is one sensation that is universal. Interestingly, experts say that pain is more than just a neural transmission and sensory transduction. Rather, many believe it is a complex mixture of emotions, culture, experience and more.
Types of Pain
There are two types of pain:
Acute pain is the type that occurs briefly and intensely after trauma. The pain felt after stubbing your toe or cutting your finger while chopping vegetables is considered acute pain. Many people describe acute pain as feeling “sharp.”
Chronic pain Examples of chronic pain include back pain, arthritis pain and cancer pain. Neuropathic pain, pain that is present when the body’s nervous system is not working properly, is also considered chronic pain.
Sources of Pain: Areas of the Body
Some areas of the body are more of a source of pain than others. These areas include:
- The Back: More than 26 million people between the ages of 20 and 64 report chronic back pain.
- The Head: More than 25 million people suffer from migraines.
- The Wrists and Other Joints: One in six people suffers from some form of arthritis.
- The Science of Pain
While pain is a relatively basic sensation, the way in which the body feels pain is actually quite complex. In order for a person to feel pain, his nervous system must first respond to the stimulus that is the source of the pain.
The nerves that sense pain and transmit pain signals are called nociceptors. In response to pain, the nociceptors transmit electrical signals to your spinal column, which transmits the message to your brain. If the source of pain gets stronger, the nociceptors will fire more rapidly, causing an increase in the pain a person experiences. When the stimulus is gone, the receptors stop firing pain signals.
The type of pain that a person feels is dependent on the type of nerve fiber that sends the initial signal of pain. For example, intense, unbearable pain may result when constant signals are sent to smaller fibers of the brain.
Identifying the Source of Pain:
One of the ways that doctors can find the source of pain is to perform a fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray that allows doctors to see internal organs and body structures in motion. Other tests doctors may perform to identify the cause of pain include:
- Computerized Axial Tomographic (CAT) scan
- Electromyography (EMG) test
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
- Of course, your doctor may also wish to perform exploratory surgery in order to pinpoint the cause of your pain.
- Finding the Source of Pain
Often, when people feel pain in a certain part of the body, they believe that area of the body has been injured. However, it is important to know that simply because you feel pain in one area does not mean that you have been injured or infected in that area.
For example, a herniated disc in a person’s back can cause the person to feel pain extending down his leg. For this reason, especially with chronic pain, it is important to first identify the source of pain in order to establish an effective pain treatment plan. Once the source of the pain has been discovered, the cause of the pain can be treated, thus helping to eliminate or reduce pain.
Sometimes the source of the pain cannot be treated or removed from the body. In other cases, doctors simply cannot find the source of the pain. In these instances, doctors often prescribe pain medication to sufferers or offer advice on pain management options, including physical therapy, massage and acupuncture.